“Even in death, you must not forget!”
A strange yet familiar voice seemed to come from deep in the clouds. Again and again, echoing, layering, relentless.
Must not forget?
Must not forget what?
He suddenly woke. Just as usual, his entire body was soaked, the clothing sticking to the skin uncomfortably. He sat up, the stars and dark sky above his head reminding him that there was still a long time before morning. A gust of wind blew over, whooshing icily.
This dream again!
Habitually blowing out a long breath.
It was still early, he laid back down going back to sleep.
Before he could walk to the gate of the mountain, Zuo Mo heard someone yelling from far away. “Mo ge,1 remember to water the fields for me. We made an agreement at the beginning of this month. This year’s harvest is depending on you.”
When he looked over, it was a fifty-something year old man, dark and thin. He was poking around in the field. If he didn’t look closely, he wouldn’t see there was a person there.
The old man’s nickname was Old Black. His real name was unknown. He was the oldest among the outer sect disciples of Wu Kong Sword Sect.2
Zuo Mo wiped at the sweat on his forehead, replying, “Won’t forget. Don’t worry, tomorrow, it’s your turn!”
Zuo Mo’s body was thin like a stalk of bamboo. The purple robe of the outer sect disciples loosely draped on his body. In contrast to the slipperiness of his speech was his wooden face that looked like a zombie, dark and gloomy.
Zuo Mo’s zombie face was his trademark characteristic. In the beginning, everyone avoided him, but gradually they discovered that other than his face, his temper and personality were both extremely good at which point more people interacted with him. After these two years, he was the most popular among the outer sect disciples.
Old Black’s face lit up in joy, his mouth hurriedly complimenting, “Good good good! Mo ge, your specialty, I, Old Black, has never seen anything else like it.”
Zuo Mo’s [The Little Art of Cloud and Rain] was special. He was the only one in the outer sect disciples to have mastered the third level of [The Little Art of Cloud and Rain]. It was with this that he almost had a monopoly on the contracts of rain-making for all the ling3 fields of the sect.
[The Little Art of Cloud and Rain] wasn’t a complicated spell,4 everyone knew how to do it. Its main use was creating rain for the ling fields. One only needed three to five days to learn the first level. The second level, it could be easily accomplished in one or two years. But starting from the third level, it required the ability of comprehension from each individual. In all of the outer sect disciples of Wu Kong Sword Sect, only Zuo Mo had successfully comprehended it.
After [The Little Art of Cloud and Rain] reached the third level, its effectiveness increased dramatically and could drastically increase the production of ling grains and ling vegetables. Because of that, after he achieved the third level, his position in the sect rose. His name went from Little Zombie Mo to Mo ge.
Zuo Mo waved his hand to bid farewell to Old Black.
Zuo Mo bared his teeth and shifted the bag on his back. His shoulders ached. On his back was three hundred catties of ling grain which almost broke his thin and weak shoulders.
A thin and weak zombie carried a cloth bag on his back that was many times larger than his body. He moved with difficulty along the mountain path.
Lugging three hundred catties of ling grain, he wheezed his way down to the entrance to the mountain. Just as he passed the mountain gate, he threw the cloth bag on his shoulders to the ground as his entire body collapsed to the ground, his breath racing.
After resting for a short period and he recovered some energy, he stood up and carefully took out a grass yellow paper crane from his bosom.
The paper crane was the size of a palm, folded from yellow grass paper. Drawn on it in cinnabar, were seals.
As he channeled in ling power, the paper crane began to enlarge. It grew slightly larger than a real crane. Thin stalks of bamboo made up the skeleton and a layer of yellow grass paper was pasted on top. Drawn over the entire body were seals that curved like tadpoles. It was evident that the craftsmanship of the crane wasn’t very good. Many places that were pasted together were frayed. The quality of the yellow paper was very low as fragments of grass could be seen throughout on the paper.
Zuo Mo lifted the cloth bag onto the back of the paper crane, from the ground.
Inside the mountain, the outer sect disciples were restricted from flying. During these two years, Zuo Mo had cursed this rule inside countless times.
Clumsily climbing onto the back of the paper crane, the sound of creaking and groaning could be heard as the bamboo rods of the paper crane bent. He paused in his motions. After a while, seeing that the paper crane showed no indication of collapsing, he exhaled in relief.
“Lil’ Yellow,5 Lil’ Yellow, you can’t break down at this time.”
Zuo Mo patted the head of the paper crane as it swayed and left the ground.
The creaking of the bamboo and paper sounded once again. It was as though the paper crane was drunk. The flight path was strange, suddenly high, suddenly low, suddenly left before turning right. It wheezed as it followed the mountain road forward.
Zuo Mo had a very steady seat. He was very experienced. This was the lowest quality of flying paper cranes. Its maximum load wasn’t even four hundred catties. The weight right now was extremely dangerous. But this “impotent” paper crane was something that all other outer sect disciples were envious of.
In the outer sect disciples, he was the first one to have a mount. Of course, as to whether a flying paper crane truly counted as a mount wasn’t in the limits of Zuo Mo’s consideration.
In the midst of the creaking and crying, after swerving for ten hours, when Zuo Mo’s zombie face was slightly pale, Dong Fu could be seen far away on the horizon.
In the midst of the clouds, Dong Fu faded in and out.
Once upon a time, Dong Fu zhenren6 broke off the peak with one sword strike and used the newly formed plateau as the foundation for his base, creating Dong Fu. After five hundred years, Dong Fu had developed into one of the thirteen primary towns of Sky Moon Jie. Three thousand jie of the xiuzhe,7 Sky Moon Jie couldn’t even be ranked. It was only a minor jie, its history just one thousand and five hundred something years. One thousand and five hundred years ago, Tian Yue8 xianren9 found and took control of this jie. She used her own name to name it Sky Moon jie. Tian Yue xianren was one of Kun Lun and so Sky Moon Jie logically became one of the jie that were governed by the realm of Kun Lun.10
After that, some other zhenren came to Sky Moon Jie to start their own sects and it gradually developed into the present day situation.
The paper crane creaked and groaned as it struggled to fly to the base of Dong Fu Mountain. During the journey, he was able to hear the laughter of other people. A thin zombie, sitting on a similarly thin, drunken paper crane. The scene caused many people to laugh.
Zuo Mo sat in a dignified manner, his expression was natural as though he was the perfect zombie. In reality, on the inside, he was drooling at the other flying mounts that flew over his head – those were true mounts!
This one with the grey body and red beak was a red beaked goose. The back of the goose was wide and soft, sitting on it, one would feel almost no shaking, it was called the greatest experience. The lump under that xiuzhe’s feet was Lucky Magic Cloud, travelling on a cloud was so free and outstanding. The silver hovering on the back of that xiuzhe was Thunder Wings, the lightning sparked and flew at high speeds like lightning, do you want to experience speed … …
He could recite the slogans smoothly, but he was only able to recite the advertisements.
The thing that shocked everyone the most was a Thousand Wings Boat that slowly sailed above his head. The entire boat was like a mountain as it flew across his head. Zuo Mo only felt his eyes become dark and when he raised his head, the light of the jinzhi11 at the base of the black bottom were barely detectable.
The greatest crime of all xiuzhe was extravagance!
Zuo Mo couldn’t help swearing inside, but when he saw the other xiuzhe scatter sorrily, his mood instantly became better.
After flying for another two hours, xiuzhe and crane finally reached the base of Dong Fu Mountain. With Lil’ Yellow’s impotent flying ability that stuck to right above the ground, flying up Dong Fu was just wishful thinking.
He climbed down from the paper crane and loaded off the bag. When he took down the paper crane, cracks could be seen on the surface. Zuo Mo sighed with grief inside. Did he have to buy a new one? This thought made his flesh hurt deeply.
Narrowing his eyes to look at Dong Fu that was over the clouds, and the winding and countless stone steps, and then a look at the bag beside his feet, Zuo Mo’s legs started trembling.
“Brother, do you need help?” A shadow came across Zuo Mo’s eyes.
A man whose half-naked body was steely muscled came over.
“How much?” Zuo Mo asked alertly. His eyes scanned around the surroundings. Receiving encouragement from his look, a few other men sitting at the side stood up.
Noticing that others of his own profession seemed to want to come over, the man’s heart tightened and he hurriedly stated, “Three first grade.”
Three first grade meant three pieces of first-grade jingshi.12
Zuo Mo exclaimed in shock, “Kill me!” And followed decisively, “Just two. If you’re willing, then do it. If not, never mind.” At this time, if he made out a shocked expression, he would have had both sound and look. The ploy was hopeless for Zuo Mo, because his zombie face didn’t move and the atmosphere instantly became weird.
“Too fake!” The strongman jerked his mouth, but seeing the other people that were restless in the surroundings, he gritted his teeth and crisply nodded, “Fine!”
Finishing, his hand that was as big as a fan reached for the cloth bag on the ground. Zuo Mo shouted, “Wait!”
“Make a contract first.” Zuo Mo took out a jade scroll.
“Just two, what contract does it need?” The strong man muttered disapprovingly.
“For safety. Otherwise, with my body, if you run, I can’t catch up with you.” Zuo Mo’s face was still expressionless, and his voice was still carrying a smile.
Helplessly, the strong man could only sign a contract with Zuo Mo. Seeing this, the other people finally left.
Finishing the contract, the man picked up the bag on the ground. The three hundred catty seemed weightless in his arms.
Halfway up the mountain, Zuo Mo struggled to crawl up the mountain, his entire body soaked in sweat. The brawny man said with a face full of disdain, “Your endurance really sucks.” Then he urged, “Can’t you be faster? I still want to complete two more job orders today! At this speed, it’ll be lucky if we get there before dark.”
Zuo Mo felt as though he was a fish out of the water. He felt he was suffocating. He put his butt on the stone stairs and panted roughly, one breath disconnected from the next, “I ……I can’t……”
The man instantly panicked, “It can’t be like this. Are you trying to ruin my business?”
Zuo Mo’s eyes rolled and he stated expressionlessly, “You can see it. I really don’t have any more energy.”
The man furiously ranted, “Taking your business, I really lost a lot today.” Finishing, he grabbed Zuo Mo with one hand and put him under his arm, lengthening his stride and started to jog up the stone stairs.
“You guys who cultivate your body, are really admirable.” Zuo Mo who was taking advantage said heartlessly.
“What’s admirable? Just eating based on physical strength. Right now, I’m at the fifth level of lianqi.13 Once I get to zhuji ,14 I can take more orders. These days, it’s hard to make a living!” The muscled man couldn’t help but sigh.
“Yeah! Living isn’t easy!” Zuo Mo felt sorrow in his heart. He suddenly remembered that Thousand Wing Boat he saw on the road and couldn’t help but ask, “Hey, what was with that Thousand Wing Boat? I have never seen it before.”
“That’s the moving palace of Chi Ye zhenren. You have to be careful and not provoke him.” The man gave a friendly reminder, “If you see women dressed in white with a veil, you have to respectfully stay away. They are all concubines of Chi Ye zhenren and have terrible tempers. Many people have offended them and they didn’t have good endings!”
The man’s strength was astonishing. One hand holding the three hundred catty bag, the other hand Zuo Mo as he spoke without showing any sign of exhaustion.
“That’s true. For us little people, to offend them is to seek death.” Zuo Mo agreed.
The strides of the man were very big and his speed much faster than Xiao Huang. It only took him an hour to finish climbing up the winding stone stairs.
Zuo Mo crisply paid him two first-grade jingshi. The man took the jingshi before turning to rush down the mountain.
“Living isn’t easy!” Zuo Mo looked at the back of the man and expressionlessly concluded.
Zuo Mo was very familiar with Dong Fu. He took up the bag, and after a few turns he found his destination.
This was a store that specialized in purchasing ling grains. It was a small storefront. Outside the door, there hanged a small flag. On it were two words, Ling Grains. The seal arrangement on the flag guaranteed that the two words could be seen from far away even at night.
Three hundred catties of second-grade ling grain, to this kind of store, it was just a small piece of business. The storekeeper didn’t even bother to come out to give a greeting, only sending a shop assistant.
“Thirty pieces of second-grade jingshi.”
The shop assistant had no intentions of bargaining. Zuo Mo also knew he didn’t have any room to bargain and very crisply nodded.
This price was slightly low but it was the same at any other store unless he could bring ten thousand catties or more of ling grain at one time. Then he would have the right to bargain on the price. Taking away the portion that needed to be given up to the sect, three hundred catties of ling grain was the result of his year of hard effort.
Thirty pieces of second-grade jingshi, for him, was a large sum of money.
Having thirty pieces of second-grade jingshi as he walked on the street, Zuo Mo felt that all the passer-by’s eyes were like daggers.
The streets of Dong Fu were wide. In the sky, many houses of different colors and shapes floated. These were also stores, but that was the high-end district. Without a high-grade mount any xiuzhe who could not fly on a sword couldn’t enter, even if they wanted to. Some high-end stores were small islands floating in the sky, with grass and flowers blooming, and music streaming out.
That was a place that Zuo Mo wouldn’t even dream about. He always only looked at what was in his bowl.