Chapter 27: Listen or Suffer
Translator: Noodletown Translated Editor: Noodletown Translated
Paying no attention to Hao Ren’s reaction, Zhao Yanzi leaped towards the Daoist temple. Carrying the backpack, Hao Ren stepped across the entrance of the Daoist temple after her.
The golden eaves of the temple were soaking up the last bit of the afternoon sunshine, and the entire Daoist temple appeared solemn and serene.
Since it was already afternoon and the temple was situated on top of the mountain, there weren’t any visitors. As there were no cable cars, only people who were fit and determined like Hao Ren and Zhao Yanzi would be able to visit the temple at this hour. Otherwise, one would have to start climbing in the early morning in order to arrive here by noon and then further spend the entire afternoon getting back down.
Therefore, arriving at such odd hours, Zhao Yanzi and Hao Ren didn’t run into any visitors. In the yard of the Daoist temple, some young Daoists were sweeping up fallen leaves. Even Zhao Yanzi who was yelling and shouting on her way in had become quiet as soon as she stepped into the temple.
The paving bricks in the yard were of different colors and had been put together to create a massive picture of the Tai Chi and the Eight Trigrams. In the south-west corner of the yard, there was an aged yet towering ancient pine tree.
Hao Ren knew that this must be the thousand-year-old tree Zhao Guang had mentioned. With a heart filled with respect, he walked over to it calmly. As the temple did not have many visitors, the ancient tree had not been fenced off. It had only quietly taken its place in the corner of the yard.
Hao Ren walked up and reached out his hand, gently caressing its trunk which was full of senescence and fortitude.
Its bark was rock-solid and smooth. From its outer appearance, it did not even look like wood anymore.
Hao Ren stealthily began running the Concentration Cultivation Scroll and was becoming aware of nature’s essence nearby. He was actually able to receive a burst of condense wood essence from the rigid bark of this ancient pine tree.
Moreover, the Dragon Core inside his body seemed to have resonated with the ancient tree as Hao Ren could feel it vibrating inside of him. The warm and humid energy flow had traveled through Hao Ren’s arms and towards the interior of the tree. At the same time, the ancient tree was also emitting a burst of wood essence towards Hao Ren, nourishing his body.
Zhao Yanzi watched Hao Ren quietly. She understood that he must be having an enlightening moment and did not want to interrupt him.
After a full minute, Hao Ren withdrew his hand and breathed out heavily. The fatigue that he felt from climbing up the mountain had completely vanished. Instead, all that was left in him was pure strength and prosperous liveliness.
With his heart full of reverence, Hao Ren slightly bowed to the ancient tree.
Hao Ren noticed that Zhao Yanzi had become dazed while watching him. He called to her with a smile, “Let’s go.”
For a few seconds, Zhao Yanzi could not react properly. She couldn’t help but let out an “Oh” and start following Hao Ren’s footsteps. As she passed through the yard and entered the main palace, she was finally herself again. The image of the smile that Hao Ren just gave her had lingered in her mind, and she suddenly felt her heart flutter.
Hao Ren didn’t even realize how gentle he had just smiled at Zhao Yanzi. Upon entering the main palace, he raised his head to observe the statue of the Founder of the San Qing Religion that was a few meters tall. Then he proceeded inwards.
The entire main palace was giving off a grand and magnificent, solemn and awe-inspiring atmosphere. It had instantly made Hao Ren feel that this visit was well worth their effort and time.
Zhao Yanzi was following Hao Ren closely. Being surrounded by solemn-looking statues had frightened her a little.
Through the main palace, they walked into another yard. There was a stone hut to the east of the yard, and inside of the hut stood a stone monument that seemed to have been there forever.
Somehow, after the enlightenment at the ancient tree, Hao Ren suddenly felt that Zhao Guang had told them about the ancient tree and the stone monument on purpose.
Hao Ren stood in front of the stone monument and began reading carefully the writing inscribed on it.
“It is everlasting and cannot be named. It is the original void of ‘non-being’. This ‘Oneness’ is the Dao which is invisible and formless. It may be regarded as vague and intangible. When the Oneness Dao comes forward, its front cannot be seen. When one tries to follow it, one cannot see its rear. By abiding with the original Dao, one can master the presence…”
As hard as Hao Ren had tried, he was only able to make sense of a couple of sentences.
Standing next to Hao Ren, Zhao Yanzi was also reading the words on the monument in silence.
“If desire shall conceal true self, true self will manifest itself even more. If desire shall weaken the true self, true self will strengthen itself even more. If desire shall abandon the true self, true self will prosperous even more. If desire shall deprive the true self, the true self will give even more. This is known as the enlightened nature that is subtle yet profound. Gentleness overcomes strength, and the meek overcomes the strong…”
The more Hao Ren read, the more difficult it was for him to understand. Likewise, with her brows deeply furrowed, Zhao Yanzi seemed to be having a hard time deciphering it herself.
This was the way to command water.
Suddenly, a sense of enlightenment crossed Hao Ren’s mind.
It was as though an awareness had arisen from the bottom of his heart. It was about to break through his chest and reach for his head.
Hao Ren then thought of the prosperousness and liveliness of the ancient tree again; it reminded him of the times when he was working on math problems. He felt as though his thinking was now finally on the right track and was about to be able to solve a challenging problem.
“Water gives life and nourishes all things on earth. Water breaks through and overcomes all impediments.”
The unexpected tolling of a bell had abruptly interrupted Hao Ren’s reflection.
Zhao Yanzi who was lost in her own thoughts had also jumped at the loud noise.
Hao Ren turned around and looked at his phone. He realized that they had spent precisely half an hour standing in front of this stone monument.
The continually falling leaves had found homes on the tops of their heads and their shoulders, and the young Daoists who were performing cleaning chores had also returned to rest.
Hao Ren and Zhao Yanzi were now alone in this empty yard.
“It is quite late now, let’s start heading back,” Hao Ren said.
“Okay…” Zhao Yanzi responded obediently. It seemed that her thoughts were still with the writings on the monument.
Hao Ren put out his hand and helped Zhao Yanzi to clear off the fallen leaves in her hair and on her shoulders.
His gesture was casual and gentle, and Zhao Yanzi did not react in time. She felt surprised and a hint of sweet joy.
“This guy is actually quite nice to me.” Zhao Yanzi secretly thought to herself.
On the other hand, Hao Ren did not put much thought into his gesture. He looked down and patted off the leaves on himself before leading Zhao Yanzi out of the front gate.
Dusk seemed to come particularly early on the mountain. As the sun could still be seen hanging loosely from afar, its last beams of lights were trying to lit up the sky effortfully; it seemed that darkness would soon consume the world.
“Let’s head down quickly.” Hao Ren urged Zhao Yanzi as they could not afford any delays.
With her lips pursed, although Zhao Yanzi was criticizing Hao Ren for having no compassion for the opposite sex in her mind, she did not dare to cause any real delays. Hence, she started following Hao Ren down the trail in compliance.
As expected, the way down was less physically demanding than the way up. However, since the sun had gone down considerably, visibility had been significantly reduced. As they could not see the steps beneath their feet clearly, they had to move more cautiously and more slowly.
The trails floored with green stone plates were like strings on an instrument, and the mountain streams were like musical notes. Together, they played the rhythms of the mountain. Puffs of cool and gentle mountain breezes swiftly crossed the countless branches, generating the most natural musical.
As they walked, they were becoming more aware of all the changes around them. In the end, they seemed to have developed a more profound understanding of the natural simplicity that the Daoists had been promoting.
The Daoist temple and pavilion stood far away in the seclusion of the endless greenness of the forest quietly. Conveniently borrowing the views of nature, these structures had completely become one with the mountain and forest. Such a splendid sight was certainly sufficient for Hao Ren to suspect that a legendary Daoist master could indeed take residence in this mountain.
Hao Ren was immersed in the sceneries around him along the way. When he suddenly thought of Zhao Yanzi and turned around to check on her, she had already stopped moving a long time ago and was far behind him.
Hao Ren formed a trumpet with his hands, placed it over his mouth, and yelled at her, “Hey…”
Zhao Yanzi heard Hao Ren. However, instead of walking forward, she actually sat down.
“What is up with her…” Hao Ren picked up his pace and began walking back to her. When he arrived, he questioned, “Why are you not moving?”
Pouting her lips, Zhao Yanzi turned away from him.
Hao Ren assumed that she was tired, so he sat down next to her for a break as well. He did not understand the mind of a little girl at all; he was so self-absorbed on their way down and did not check on Zhao Yanzi at all. Even though Zhao Yanzi did not say a word and tried to follow him with her greatest effort, she felt extremely upset and neglected.
“Can you still move?” Seeing that Zhao Yanzi seemed to have no intention of getting up and the sky had darkened, even more, Hao Ren couldn’t help but ask.
“If I had my Dragon Core, I would have made it down a long time ago and not be here listening to you talk!” She responded with rage.
Now, Hao Ren finally realized that he had overlooked the fact that she was only a little girl and had limited strength. Zhao Yanzi’s parents had asked him to look after her, yet, all he cared about was being on time. He was worried that they could not make it down the mountain in time and did not consider Zhao Yanzi’s well-being at all. They were in a rush on their way up, and now they were in a rush on their way down as well.
“How about…” Hao Ren paused to think, “I carry you on my back?”
“Bah! Who would want that!?” With cheeks puffed with anger, Zhao Yanzi stood up and started walking downwards.
“Hey! Slow down!” Hao Ren immediately ran after her as he was afraid she would trip.
He began to have a slightly better understanding of this little girl’s thoughts. Although she kept emphasizing that she didn’t need Hao Ren to care for her, she became very upset when he actually did what she said,
On their way down, Zhao Yanzi had picked up the pace, and Hao Ren was following by her side, trying to guard her against any potential dangers. The two were positioned like the intertwining black and white in the Tai Chi symbol as they traveled downwards along the peaceful trail.
Still, as fast as they were proceeding, the sky had inevitably darkened.
“You! Hurry!” Now that the last beam of light was fleeing and they were still two hours away from the foot of the mountain, Zhao Yanzi had become genuinely anxious.
“Is it this side or that side?” By the dimming light, Hao Ren held up the map and asked. The closer they were to the halfway point, the more small exhibits and diverging paths they would encounter.
“It is definitely this side!” Zhao Yanzi pointed to the left.
“Oh, then it is definitely the other side!” Hao Ren directly went towards the right. After Zhao Yanzi had given the wrong direction three times in a row, Hao Ren had become faithless in her sense of direction and believed that he had to go against her hunch to get to their destination.
Zhao Yanzi was flabbergasted. Yet, she did not trust her own sense of direction either. In the end, she could only follow Hao Ren. Strangely enough, every time Hao Ren had gone against Zhao Yanzi’s hunch and went the other way, it turned out to be the correct way down the mountain.
There were no signs of any other human beings in the entire mountain, and it was almost dead silent. Consequently, the footsteps of Hao Ren and Zhao Yanzi were becoming more distinct as they resonated in the dark.
As the sun had set, the previously gorgeous sceneries had now become grim and gruesome. Being in this remote and thickly forested mountain, Zhao Yanzi was surely terrified as she was only a young girl after all. As a result, her speed had decreased, and she was not running ahead anymore. Slowly, she began walking by Hao Ren’s side.
This time, Hao Ren had figured out what she was thinking and took the initiative to hold her small hand. He had no intention of taking advantage of her; he worried that she might roll down the mountain if her legs started trembling due to fear.
As the sky continued to darken, they proceeded even more slowly. Without noticing, it was already way past seven o’clock. It was night time, and they were still at least two hours away from getting down to the hotel with their pace.
Moreover, except the areas nearby Daoist temples which had cell towers, their cell phones had no signals anywhere else on the mountain. For them, there was nowhere to turn for help. Hence, Hao Ren and Zhao Yanzi could only brace themselves and carry on.
The paths on the mountain were full of twists and turns. Sometimes they pointed upwards and other times downwards. At times, the two had become confused whether they were climbing up the mountain or descending. Yet, overall, they felt that they were getting close to the foot of the mountain.
“Hey, we’re not going to starve to death here, are we?” Pinching Hao Ren’s palm, Zhao Yanzi couldn’t help but ask.
“If there is really nothing left to eat, then I will eat you first,” Hao Ren said to her.
“You…” Wrinkling her nose, Zhao Yanzi glared at Hao Ren while her cheeks puffed with anger. While talking with him, her fear automatically dropped.
Time was ticking away; it was already eight o’clock at night. However, the foot of the mountain still seemed unreachable to them.
Being caught in this mountain where birds had the creepiest chirping, Zhao Yanzi had no one to rely on but Hao Ren. She stayed close to him and grasped his hand even more tightly.
Hao Ren was also unfamiliar with the mountain. As he did not bring a flashlight, he could only turn on his cell phone and utilize the weak light from it to light up the path under their feet. He prayed that he would not miss a step and roll down the mountain with Zhao Yanzi.
On their way down, they found some peculiar insects that were emitting golden lights. However, these were not fireflies as they tend to be lumpily attached to mountain cliffs.
Zhao Yanzi had an intense fear of insects. She cowered right next to Hao Ren and clutched onto his hand firmly. Regret had now filled her heart. She regretted climbing to the mountaintop with Hao Ren as it had resulted in them being stuck in the middle of a mountain at night and could not make their way back down.
“Hey, how am I supposed to walk if you’re grabbing onto me so tightly?” Hao Ren turned and asked her.
Embellished on her fair face, Zhao Yanzi’s starry eyes were beautiful and charming in pitch-dark.
“I… I’m not scared. I’m only feeling a little cold.” Zhao Yanzi’s tenacious quibble had given herself away unintentionally.
Enclosing her smooth and slippery palm tightly in his own, Hao Ren had strengthened his will to make it down the mountain and pressed on.
After feeling their way in the darkness for over an hour, they finally caught a glimpse of the light from somewhere close to the foot of the mountain. The brilliantly illuminated hotel had also appeared before their eyes.
“We’re almost there!” Pulling on Zhao Yanzi’s hand, Hao Ren increased his speed. His cell phone was about to die, and the light emitted by Zhao Yanzi’s cell phone was too weak to be helpful. If they did not get down now, they would seriously be stuck on the mountain.
Zhao Yanzi also let out a sigh of relief and accelerated.
At last, after about fifteen more minutes, they had made it to the entrance of the mountain.
As she had been extremely anxious on her way down, Zhao Yanzi’s palm was now fully covered in sweat.
Now that they were safe, she finally realized that Hao Ren had been holding her hand for hours and abruptly withdrew her hand out of his.
“What a way to take someone’s goodwill for ill intent…” Hao Ren sighed at her aggressive behavior.
“Who gave you the permission to hold my hand!?” Zhao Yanzi asserted eloquently.
Hao Ren couldn’t be bothered with arguing with her as his stomach was now growling loudly. They had long finished all the snacks in the backpack on their way down.
He promptly walked towards the hotel. Zhao Yanzi followed behind him, looking torn by her mixed feelings. Truthfully, she knew that she had become very dependent on Hao Ren on their way down. If it weren’t for him, she would not know what to do in those situations.
At the same time, she did not want to admit to herself that she could only get down with his help. She believed that if she had run into any real danger, her parents would surely come to her rescue.
As soon as they got to the hotel, it seemed that their alliance had broken down. Zhao Yanzi was giving Hao Ren dirty looks as if he owed her millions.
Now that Zhao Yanzi was giving him the cold shoulder, Hao Ren did not want to waste any more effort on being friendly to her either. What concerned him the most right now was that he had to share a room with her father; he thought it might be awkward.
As they entered the hotel respectively, they returned to their rooms. Listless and exhausted, Hao Ren was surprised to find that there was a note in the room. On it, it stated: “Zi’s mother and I are going to visit a friend who lives nearby; we might be back late.”
Ding dong… Ding dong…
At that moment, the doorbell of his room started ringing.
He ran over to get the door and found Zhao Yanzi standing there awkwardly. “Hmm… Let’s go eat?” she said as she bit her lips.