Chapter 1 - As Weak As An Ant
Chapter One - As Weak As An Ant
As one followed a trail down the Hui Yin Mountain, they would reach the Evil Dragon River, which in turn flowed, day and night, along the Xu Village.
It was in August, the weather was already a little bit cold but the flora was still flourishing. Under an aged Chinese parasol, a group of villagers were attentively listening to a speech delivered by a seemingly young man.
However, this young man was actually just a teenager. Despite the good-looking eyes and nose, he was wearing a wax-colored face, as if he was ill. As the wind was blowing wildly, the linen-made coat pressed tightly against his body, which emphasised his stalwart appearance.
To make the speech more pleasant to the ears, this ‘teenager’ was using two pieces of wood, made of huang li mu , as an instrument, and he was beating these two pieces against each other to create a beautiful rhythm. Then, he coughed to clear his throat, before opening his mouth.
“The beautiful soul of the Fox Goddess has gone with the wind in bits and pieces. It was only regrettable to find that the most promising student, Zhang Shen, would be forever seperated from his deceased Fox Goddess. The deeper his love for the Fox Goddess became, the greater the grievance in his heart was. Owning up to the unspeakable sorrow, Zhang Shen gave up on the promising future as an official and deeply buried all of his ambitions. Eventually, he decided to withdraw from society all together and chose for a life of solitude, to meditate on life and death… As the proverb goes: 曾经沧海难为水，除却巫山不是云。取次花丛懒回顾，半缘修道半缘君 (Any water is no water, after seeing the magnificent ocean; every cloud is no cloud, after seeing the splendid cloud above Wu Mountain. Walking on the path of love, I have no interest to appreciate the scenery, partly because I am a Daoism follower and partly because I already have my Mr. Right.)“
The end of the story was met with silent gazes of grieve from the audience. The story that his young man had just told, was a love story between a human and a devil. No matter how different they were, they were deeply infatuated with each other. However, for these two, there was no happy ending, as only sadness enshrouded the end of their story.
The young man wrapped his story up with some self-composed lyrics. As the lyrics reached the ears of the audience, they could no longer hold their tears. Even the children, who had not yet acquired the taste of love, were overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
The young man rose up and rythmatically started playing the wooden instrument once more, before he was suddenly holding a crude wooden bowl to receive tips from the warm-hearted audience for his performance. Soon after, the bowl was filled with bronze coins; you could even see some silver sycee or Yuan bao  hidden between the bronze coins.
The village, governed under the Guanan prefecture, was blessed with plenty of resources and affluence. You might say that the citizens here were poorly educated, but that didn’t change the fact that they had an abundance of riches.
In this small village, there was seldom any entertainment to enjoy. The story, that was just told by the young man, was especially cherished by the people here. Touched by this story’s tragic romance, the audience even started dreaming of becoming one of the leading roles. The young man had successfully formed a large group of fans and he was generously rewarded each time he finished another one of his stories. After packing all of his belongings, the young man bowed towards the audience and informed them at what time he would return to share another story. Then he turned around and walked away.
You may wonder who this teenager was. He was Xu Yi, an 18 year old boy who was raised in the neighboring Xu Village. In the early years of his life, he was just an oblivious young man, no different from those slackers found on the streets. However, as he grew up, his talent for storytelling began to show and this had quickly made him a famous person in the neighborhoods in and surrounding Xu Village.
A bright golden sunshine was pouring down on the verdant Hui Yin Mountain, which stretched far into the distance. This mountain range had oddly a striking resemblance to the spine of an exceedingly giant dragon. In the lowest part of this mountain range, there were some seventy or eighty wooden houses located. They dotted this mountain range like chess pieces randomly placed on a board.
At the foot of the Hui Yin Mountain, there was a shabby wooden house, which even looked a little bit skewed due to years of erosion by the wind and rain. Yes, as one might have guessed, this was the place where Xu Yi lived.
To Xu Yi, the tumbled-down house represented home. This was the place where he felt most calm and secure at.
An old dog with yellow fur barked and started running merrily towards Xu Yi, as if he couldn’t wait any longer to greet his master. In order to welcome Xu Yi, the dog even made a rather intimate gesture by jumping up high and putting his front paws around the shoulders of his master.
During the 18 years of comradery, Xu Yi had stopped treating this dog as a pet and had started to consider him as a member of his family. This was because Xu Yi’s parents had died in the ferocious attack that was orchistrated by their enemies. He was an only child, so after losing his parents in this attack, all that he had left is this dog. This was also why the dog meant so much to him.
Every day, the old dog would sit at the doorsteps, with his bright eyes staring into the distance, calmly awaiting the return of his master. For Xu Yi, it was a great joy and a feeling of immense luck, to have found such a loyal companion.
Yu Xi tenderly caressed his dog’s head, as he looked at the dog’s wrinkles, that had quietly emerged over the years. He greatly enjoyed the harmonious and happy relation he had with this old companion.
On his way home, Xu Yi and the dog walked on the mountain road, which was too narrow to allow both of them to walk alongside each other. The thistles and thorns were densely covering the road, but the dog bravely whipped them away with his tail. Xu Yi knew very well, that this dog would do everyting within its powers to protect him, even if his tail did hurt by doing so.
When they finally arrived home, it was already lunch time. Xu Yi had been so busy this morning, that he was exhausted and hungry. He calmly walked towards the corner of his house and picked up a big chunk of pickled red meat, roughly 3 kg in weight, and filled a bowl with rice. With the meat in one hand and the bowl of rice in the other, he went back outside. He made his way towards the side of the wooden house, here there was a small shed, where two black cooking pots were placed on a traditional hearth. Xu Yi put the meat in one pot and the rice in the other.
He ignited the hearth and covered the cooking pots. Since it would take a while for the food to be ready for consumption, Xu Yi decided to enjoy himself by reading a book while waiting. He opened a book that was titled ‘Nan Hua Collection’, and as he did, the dog came over and quietly lied down beside him.
A beautiful mountain scenery and a tender breeze, Xu Yi loved this tranquility and inward peacefulness. After quite some time, the delicious aroma of the nicely cooked meat and rice started coming out from the crevice of the lid. The smoke that was emerging from the cooking pots, was even elegantly dancing on the wind.
Xu Yi closed the book and was about to open the lid of the pot, when he suddenly felt his eyes drastically twitch. He quickly realised that this was probably not a promising signal, so he instinctively threw himself to the ground, right on top of his dog, closely hugging him.
- Bang! - A loud noise bursted out from the hearth. The explosion completely took the kitchen apart, it had even caused a cloud of dust and debris to quickly spread out.
“Your Excellency, that throw is really an eye-opener. Just how did you throw a 15 kg millstone 30 meters away and still hit the target? You’ve achieved another breakthrough in your cultivation!“ The crude voice of a man could be heard closeby.
Looking at where the sound originated from, shock appeared on Xu Yi’s face. He then quickly snatched his dog and put it in the house, before locking the door. Xu Yi then positioned himself squarely in front of his house, knowing that he had no reason to dodge like a coward.
“This smell is so inviting! Ah, what a comfortable life, with meat to eat and wine to drink. I hear that you have found your own way to earn a living. I am truly envious of you...” Junior Zhou, the son of a high official, said in a sarcastic tone. Two bodyguards were standing on either side of Junior Zhou. One had a full beard and the other had an aquiline nose and deep eyes. You could tell from their appearances alone, that these two guys were rather strong.
“Your Excellency, please don’t make such ridiculous jokes. I just fabricate some dull stories to make ends meet. I don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with you.“ Xu Yi restrained himself and managed to speak calmly.
“Of course you don’t deserve it!”
The man with the full beard strode forward and only stopped as he stood right in front of Xu Yi, attempting to scare the latter. “You are a smart boy, you know why we have come. Cut the bullshit and let’s get straight to the point.“ the man with the full beard said with a grim laugh and then hit Xu Yi on his cheek.
“Your Excellency, please trust me. I have already submitted the land title deed to the local government. You know the government has to go through some red tape and it takes some time. I promise, tomorrow, everything will be sorted out.” Xu Yi said humbly.
Junior Zhou laughed out loudly, “Listen! I will go to the Hui Yin Mountain for hunting tomorrow. You’d better await me there and give me the title deed. You won’t let me down, right? Or else, you know what will happen to you! Actually, I’ve heard that you recently started practicing Chinese boxing, why don’t we have a fight tomorrow? We will even be so kind as to give you a few pointers!”
Suddenly, the man with the full beard snatched Xu Yi by his collar and lifted him up. “Yeah, that’s right. We’ll give you some helpfull pointers then!”
Hardly had his voice faded away, or he slammed hard on Xu Yi’s shoulder. Just like a kite without a rope, Xu Yi was send flying for about ten meters. After he crashed into the ground, there was blood gushing out of the corners of his mouth and he was looking extremely pale.
“Your Excellency, he is as weak as an ant! A little finger is enough to send him to hell. He wishes to practice martial arts? This is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard of!“ The man with the full beard said inbetween a wild bray of laughter.
Junior Zhou threw a despicable look at Xu Yi, before he turned away. “You are the black sheep of your family. Weak as an ant and valueless as a piece of shit, you’re nothing. You don’t live up to your ancestors’ expectations, they’ll be so angry with you that they might even rise from their graves, just to reprimand you. Oh that’s right, I almost forgot to tell you, revered Ming De’s  grave was destroyed. But you don’t have to worry about this anymore as we’ve already renovated it into a pigpen!”
: Two pieces of wood made of huang li mu: an instrument used in story-telling, to make the event more melodious and attractive.
picture link: http://www.efloras.org/object_page.aspx?object_id=93318&flora_id=2
: Yuan bao: a sycee or yuan bao is a type of silver or gold ingot currency used in imperial China.
: Ming De: one of Xu Yi’s family members who was killed by his family’s enemies.