CHAPTER 131: OLD STORY
The lake is a small lake. Fish could be seen jumping and the green trees beside the lake give it a feeling of a sacred place contrasted the wit the appearance of the gloomy forest on the other side of the hill.
The hill is a patchwork of green and gloomy feeling. That is what Xiyun felt. She is waiting for Xiao De who promises to meet her.
Then from the vicinity Xiyun could hear the movements of footsteps.
‘Xiao De you are here.’
‘Yes, I promise I would come didn’t I?’
‘So what is the important thing you need to talk about? Surely it is not about my teacher.’ She said grinning, knowing fully that is Xiao de intention of asking her here.
No matter how Xiyun rack her brain she could not find any other reason than this. Xiao De redden in embarrassment as Xiyun guessed it correctly
‘Ah, Sister Xiyun is insightful indeed. Then permit me asking this favour from you. We want to ask you, to ask your teacher whether he would permit the other schools to visit him.’
‘Visit my teacher. Why?’ she asked.
The wind blows a bit, caressing the long flowing hair of Xiyun and Xiao De could see a little bit of haughtiness, a prideful disposition….almost like her older sister.
‘Hmmm…the other schools especially Yilin want to reconcile their difference with your teacher.’
‘Why not come and ask my teacher personally?’
‘Well, considering what happen before-‘
And Xiyun understand. Who know if her teacher is still angry?
‘So, you want me to ask my teacher? What if my teacher gets angry at me? I don’t want to bear the brunt of my teacher wrath? And why is that Yilin monk won’t ask me themselves? Too proud? Too prideful? Why is it you?’ she said as she attack Xiao De with questions after question.
‘Sister Xiyun, don’t be like this. You know why they didn’t come. They fear offending your teacher if they are spotted.’
‘And you…..you are not afraid. So, you do not fear offending my teacher. You must think my teacher is not worth all the attention’ she said grinning maliciously. Xiao De face turns pale.
‘Why twist my noble intention? Why twist my words? I am confident that Expert Arial is not that petty.’
‘Who are you to say things about my teacher character? And if my teacher is petty? What will you do?’
‘HAHAHAHA’ Xiao De laughs.
‘What can I do? It means reconciliation is not possible at all. Then I guess the schools and Arial Vermont the Divine Dragon will clash and many lives will be lost. The martial art world will probably in a great upheaval in the worst case scenario. The school can also only endure so much before full out conflict breakout. Even if you teacher is strong and powerful, even if martial art fraternity have to die, the pride of their school need also to be maintained.’
‘Pride goeth before the fall, as most Caelum always say’ Xiyun said. Xiao De just remains silent.
Xiyun look at Xiao De. She also understands what Xiao De is worrying about. It is not like she is blind. The schools can only endure so much.
‘Are the other schools sincere in their intention of reconciling with my teacher?’ she asked. She needs to confirm the intention of the schools if they are really committed to resolving the enmity between them and her teacher. Xiao De nodded.
‘They are. I could vouch for them. Why shed blood in the martial art world when we can live in peace with each other.’
Peace, huh? When has the world of the martial art fraternity spend time in peace? They are secret wars that fight behind the scene.
But Xiyun did not say this to Xiao De. Even though this Xiao De is her senior in the martial art world, Xiyun could not believe how naïve he is.
‘Will Ermeishan appear too?’ Xiao De shakes his head
‘No….it seems they don’t share the same sentiments as the other schools.’ Xiao De said dropping his head, a look of regret washed over his face.
‘I would be surprised if they did show’ said Xiyun.
‘That Abbess is prideful and her pride has been trampled on. I am not shocked by her decision not to come. But you? The other school? Have you no pride?’ Xiyun said, her eyes glare at Xiao De.
She is curios of how Xiao De will response to her provocation.
Xiao De is different than his other senior disciple. He is not too cultured like his elder and he is easygoing but he is also very smart in the inner working of the affairs of the martial art world.
Even his show of naivety is meant to disarm his opponents.
This is Xiao De strength. While appearing to be the epitome of innocence, he negotiates with people to reach a win-win situation.
It is hard to do, when winners and losers are always the only thing people sought. A win-win.
How hard it is to do that? But that is how the Sun Moon Sect have maintained their influence in the martial art fraternity…..by talking, negotiating, making compromises, as mediator of the great schools.
He knows that is the reason he is chosen as the representative, and he also have the capacity to make this plan a success because he has good relation with Arial the Divine Dragon as some people are calling him right now.
‘All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repair the evil. The only crime is pride.’ Xiao De reply.
‘Great words and great lies’ Xiyun said.
“I have no intention in lying. What would I achieve by lying? I am humble enough, to accept my mistake, to know when it is wise to forge good relations, cautious enough not to offend great men. And your teacher is a great man. And surely someday you too will rise among the experts”
Then she looked at Xiao De with an amused expression, like remembering something and she chuckle slightly.
‘How is my sister?’
‘Ah. She is fine. Her vocal cord is rumored to have made a complete recovery.’
‘That is good. She is fond of singing. At least…..she is fond of singing before. Now….I don’t know if she still love it.’ Xiyun reply, a hint of sadness can be seen etched on her beautiful face.
Her face is beautiful Xiao De mused and looking at the beauty in front of him wearing such a sad expression make Xiao De heart ache a bit.
She has all the graces that her sister had with none of the coldness. Xiao De feels his heart beats a little, a simple heartbeat. Whoever becomes her husband is a lucky man he mused.
‘Fine’ Xiyun said as she is turning away. Xiao De is flustered with the sudden exit and hold Xiyun sleeve.
‘WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?’ yelled Xiyun. As she felt the tugging on her sleeve she became slightly embarrassed.
Her face becomes blushed with obvious red, contrasted with her white pale complexion and his heart skips again, Xiao De mused..
Xiao De shrinked back. Even he felt a little embarrassed because of his sudden grabbing.
‘I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to…I was about to ask…you about whether you will ask your teacher about my request?’
‘I will .Sheessh. As repayment.’
‘Repayment?’ Xiao De said puzzled.
‘Do you mind if I tell you a story?’ she said with a bitter smile on her mouth.
‘I do not mind at all, Sister Xiyun.’
‘Once upon a time, there is one girl in a forest near the Ermeishan Mountains searching herbs and rabbits, when her ankle suffers injuries. Since the girl is not an expert nobody was looking for her. She curses the world and cried for her fate. One day a young kid passes by that area and save the girl and sends her back to the Ermei Mountain. And that is the story. It is a very short story right?’
Xiao De nodded.
‘Do you know why?’
He shakes his head.
‘Because true story always is short. Because true story usually have no drama, the mundane repetition of daily routine, no superfluous things…at least a normal person story that is. Great men always have their story to tell and most of the time their stories is fraught with dangers, and their life itself is worthy to be made a book with all its plots and adventure. But that little girl story is short because she was not important in the scheme of things. At least that is what she believed.’
And she looks at the sky and nodded. For some reason, her face reminded Xiao De of something.
Suddenly that memory surfaced in Xiao De minds.
‘You couldn’t be? You….. are that girl.’ As he began to see the resemblance of that girl with the face in front of him right now. Xiyun did not deny nor does she agree.
Xiyun smile a bitter smile and flew away from that hill.
At the fortress Xiyun relayed the intention of the schools, telling Arial all of the details. Detailing the benefits and possible plots that may be hidden in this reconciliation effort. After all Xiyun is a cautious person.
‘So, they want to reconcile. I at least expected this. A wise move….or is it an expected outcome?’ Arial said to himself. Xiyun is standing waiting for her teacher verdict.
‘Will you accept teacher?’
‘Of course. Why wouldn’t I want to reconcile the differences between our sect and the others?’
‘I thought you were angry at them.’
‘Yes, I am. But there is no need to be so stubborn in term of human relationship. After all my enemies is not the rest of the school but Ermeishan. And from what you tell me Ermeishan will not attend. Doesn’t that means we are killing birds with one stone?’
‘What do you mean teacher?’
‘We will not only improve our relationship with the other school but also isolate Ermeishan. This will surely made them incensed with anger. Isolating themselves is a most unwise decision. Xiyun tomorrow send a letter to the other schools asking them to come to our fortress. For light snacks and drinking. Get some high quality wine’
‘Wine? Where will I get the wine?’
‘Buy wine from the evil sect. They must have many. And since they are not participating and they themselves did not ask to visit we can buy their wine.’
‘Yes teacher….but the money.’
Arial went into one of the rooms and then when he went outside he tossed a pouch to Xiyun.
‘That pouch has about 1000 gold. Buy every wine you could fetch with it.’ Xiyun could not believe it.
Truly not only her teacher is strong he is also very rich. She is astounded by the fact that his teacher brought his kind of gold to the meet.
If anyone know he brought such a large amount of gold, maybe he would be attacked during everybody thought he was weak. But to Arial, 1000 gold, in the scheme of his wealth is nothing.
‘And when you’re back, hunt some rabbit in the forest. You can do it now right?’
‘Yes,’ she replied.
‘Good. Then it is settled.’ Grinning Xiyun went outside the fortress and began following her teacher orders.
THE DAY OF THE FEAST.
‘Food to eat and games to play.
Tell me why, tell me why.
Serve it out and eat it up. Have a try, have a try.’
Some people are singing. There is great ruckus in the great hall as hundreds of disciple from all the major sect is in the East fortress.
The disciple is enjoying the roasted rabbit and the wine, and rum. The elders on the other hand are in long table while their disciple stands beside them.
Only Arial disciple did not stand beside her teacher. As she is eating beside her teacher but still there is grace in eating.
She did not eat too fast, neither does she eats to slow. She takes small bites and there is smoothness and graceful flow in her movement.
Still to them, sitting beside her teacher instead of standing, is very rude in their conduct of manner. But they do not dare told her off considering even her teacher did not say anything.
‘Congratulation, lord Arial for winning the meet’ some say.
‘Winning? I do not even fight the Yilin Temple yet. It is not wise to count your chicken before the eggs even hatched.’ Arial said also laughing.
The other sect leader look at the elders of Yilin Temple, giving him a look, and then the Elder of Yilin temple got up from his seat cupped his hand, and with difficulty he said
“We, Yilin understand the disparity of power between experts and disciple. Why would we offend lord Arial just because of martial arts competition? We, Yilin will pull out from the competition tomorrow. We hope that with this gesture lord Arial will not make life difficult for our disciple.’
Arial nodded. He understands. Concession and benefit. He sees this even in his court. Though mostly such fights is between courtiers.
Massey and Oliver rivalry is pretty well known in the court of Arrandy. Silas on the other hand…..is on a level of his own.
Arial always offer him many lands and title but he rejects most of it…though that is mostly because he do not want to be saddled with administering too much.
He said that he was born for the art of politics, not statesmanship.
He can make black turn to white, white turn to black only by his words. In his youth he discovered the power of words and what it does to people.
Arial learn many things from Silas, as Silas learn many things for Arial. While Arial have respect for Silas, Silas have loyalty for him.
In a way, apart from his family and friends, Arial truly believe in Silas. He is Arial eyes and ears.
Of course at court he has the advantage considering he is the lord and the society he lived in pretty much put him around the top power structure.
Looking at the martial art fraternity, the strongest is at the top, not lineage or capable lords.
They must have planned this deferring act to appease him. And he must admit…being appeased doesn’t feel awful.
‘Then I will accept. Surely the elder of Yilin does not think me so badly for my behavior that night. Maybe I was rash that night’
Arial said, showing a faking expression of regret.
‘No. No. We are the one at fault for not investigating the matter thoroughly’ one of the elder of the Sun Moon sect exclaimed.
‘Anyway, to win that miraculous pill and book from the Western Serpent. Surely after this All Conquering sect will grow to new heights. People from all over will want to learn under you. Your wondrous secret martial arts will surely caught on like wildfire among the pugilists.’
‘Hmmm, I’m not so sure about that. This win for the meet I dedicate to Linzi temple as I promise this to the Southern Healer. And whether I will accept any other disciple, that seems to be a far off discussion for now. I am satisfied with the one.’
Arial said revealing his true intention for entering the meet and explaining his reluctance of accepting another disciple into his school.
One is enough. After all, Arial could not spend all his time, involving himself in the matter of the martial art world. There are many matters he needs to do back home.
There is the matter of Vangua and he has been away from court for too long.
On the other hand, hearing this, the other disciple is shocked and some of them choked on the chewy rabbit meat.
Some of the Elder spurted their wine. Some are wide eyed. Who does not know the Southern Healer?
‘You know the Southern Healer?’
Some of the elder who is not present during the altercation between Western Serpent and the Southern Healer two years ago is also taken by surprise by this revelation.
Of course they didn’t know that Southern Healer and this young man could be so closely related and even friend.
Some of those elders know that Arial met with the Southern Healer but no one knows what happen next.
All sort of imagination is running wild. Some even speculate that Arial must have owed the Monk something for him to do all this for the Temple.
‘No wonder! No wonder!’ Some of them said.
‘If this is his acquaintance no wonder he is this strong.’
‘The Southern Healer must have recognized this expert talent and send him as a representatives.’ This kind of conversation swirls around the long table discussing this shocking revelation
But the other sect leader also understand that if he is the representatives then even if he wins, the treasures will then be given to Linzi temple and not Arial himself. He will get nothing.
‘To think Lord Arial is a loyal friend’ one of the elder from Wuhao cheered.
‘I am filled with admiration’ he continued.
Truly what Arial did is an act of loyalty. Who would risk their life entering death and life battle only to give the treasures to someone else?
Surely not any of the sects elder. Why would they do such an unprofitable move? This is why such acts are revered and respected and one couldn’t help but cheer on such person.
The other martial artist even felt some shame. Xiyun on the other hand, her estimation towards her teacher just rises again.
‘A loyal man, an oath keeper’ she muttered under her breath. Her eye shines with a admiration and determination.
‘The Southern Healer once helped with an important matter that involves my personal affair and as such it is my honour to help him when he is occupied with the matter of his temple. Surely, a few days from now, when I announce Linzi as the winner of the Meet none of you here will contest this?’ He asked.
‘Surely not’ the other said in unison.
Who would dare offend two experts? One is even one of the 4 Immortals. Yilin on the other hand wear hard expression.
Even though Linzi is one of the righteous sects like them, there are some rivalry between Yilin and Linzi. But they swallowed it.
‘Then we all can watch the 4 Immortals battle each other.’
‘Ahh….this is the life of martial artist. To live in constant battle but also enjoying every moment of it! What life! What adventure! What excitement! HAHAHAHA’ Demon Eyed Zheng roared with laughter and the other follow.
‘True. True. Demon Eyed Zheng said nothing wrong.’
‘HAHAHA. Should we do a bet?’ Some of the other disciple shouted.
‘Lets’ one of them shouted back.
‘Ten silver for Eastern Devil.’ One voice shouted among the crowd.
‘Another ten for Northern Badger.’ Some yelled as they list their name and their amounts of bets.
‘Ten for Western Serpent.’
‘HAHAHA. THE DISCIPLE IS REALLY ROARING TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS LAST MAIN EVENT.’ Then Xiyun yelled.
‘100 gold for Divine Dragon, my teacher.’ Then suddenly the ruckus stopped, the chatter turns to silence.
‘Wha-‘ Then the rest of the Elder turned their gaze to Arial.
‘Surely you don’t mean to- ‘
‘Why not?’ Arial said joyfully.
‘Isn’t this the point of the Meet? To determine who is the strongest in the world? Why couldn’t I participate?’
With his word the other is stunned and in awe. What he said is not wrong at all. It is just….nobody even doubt the invincibility of the 4 Immortals.
But if it’s him….the other echoed in their mind…if it’ him…then maybe…just maybe…there will be another miracle.
Then the feasts begin again.