(6) The peach
A full moon hangs on the ruin of Yumenguan. Some wilted willows still stand in the vast desert. Yueqiao entered a fire beacon tower that has been abandoned for hundreds of year.
Qianqian followed up, saw the sky on the top of the tower, and the moonlight is bright. The walls cut off the wind and sand, it isn’t a bad place to take a rest at all. She sat down, felt the whole body aching and fatigued, but Yueqiao looked fine even after a long day walk. He just came in and right away said: “I am going to find something to eat.”
Yueqiao finally spoke, Qianqian was very happy, said: “You are not angry at me anymore?”
Yueqiao turned himself back, looked at her sadly: “I can’t picture if you really took by Dapeng?
Qianqian didn’t expect this is what he said after a long day silent. She felt awkward, tried to break the ice, said: “ You can take my tooth.”
Yueqiao suddenly stepped forwared, holding her shoulders, a bit agitated, said: “You have to live!”
His voice was so firm, his eyes were almost teary, but Qianqian just gave a funny look and said: “Then are you not going to find something delicious to let me live?”
Yueqiao can’t be serious anymore, he relaxed and smiled then walked outside the tower.
After he left, Qianqian looked up the staring sky, thinking of Dongting involuntarily. She can’t believe she is here in the middle of nowhere. In order to be able to go home, she has to live, then she started to prepare the camp fire for food. Not very long, Yueqiao came back with two hares. Qianqian was happy. He never disappointed her.
They felt alive when you are full. Yueqiao sat by the wall, sewing the skin of the hares with their intestines. Qianqian was curiously watching until he turned it into a waterpot like magic.
Yueqiao smiled and said: “It will be enough for a day to drink after I collect the dewdrops tomorrow morning. Here in the desert, water is life.”
Looking at the tenacity of Yueqiao, Qianqian wanted to know more about him, asked: “How come you become an orphan? What happened to your parents?”
When asked about his parents, Yueqiao just shrugged and said: “I don’t remember. It was Longqiao took me to the Icy Jade Palace. She said that I was only about five years old, murky and tearful, crying for mother when she saw me. My boots were worn out, it must had been walking for longtime.”
While Yueqiao was saying, he lay down on the floor where the moon light was shinning on his crystal blown pupils. Before they were as cold as blade, now they sedate as spirit of forest. He continued: “ Longqiao, the dragon, is the most daring. Huqiao, the tiger, is always quiet. No one knows what he is thinking. Luqiao, the deer, is quick and chirpy. We are good brothers, often work together for Master. Fengqiao, the wind. Leiqiao, the thunder, are indifferent and arrogant. They don’t like to talk to me. Riqiao, the sun, is savage, causes trouble only….”
“And Yueqiao, the moon, he is kind and brave. He looked cool but actually hot. He is….
While Qianqian was saying that, the camp fire suddenly extinguished, then only the bluish moonlight was left in between them. Yueqiao started snorting.
Before the dawn, Yueqiao had already went out, looking for cactus and red willows to collect dewdrops. When the first sunlight shone on his face, he only collected half of the hare skin bladder. He went back to the fire beacon tower, Qianqian was still sleeping. He deliberately sprinkled a few drops of dew on her face. Qianqian opened eyes gently, smiling at him like morning glory. Yueqiao made a grimace and sang a Buddhist song very poplar in the western regions: “Yangzhi ganlu cihang purdue!” Then he went away like a big child. Qianqian sat up, rubbed her eyes. The two will be going on another day of adventure.
After the sun rose, the red sand began to evaporate. It like a steamer. Afternoon, the water dried out, like a stove. It was too tired that they didn’t even want to talk. They occasionally stop to drink, and then continue walking. Finally they walked until sun set. The Gobi became a little cooler. Qianqian went forward and asked, “Where are we going to?”
Yueqiao looked ahead, said: “Leaving Daxia to Huigu. ”
Qianqian asked again: “What is the difference between Huigu and Daxia? Isn’t it the same as long as there are desolated and uninhabitable?”
Yueqiao smiled and said: “It’s not! After passing this Gobi, there is a big oasis. The people there are usually kind, but they don’t like the people of Daxia. Daxia occupied their land and killed many of the innocent residents. ”
Qianqian confused: “The Great Song has wars with the Liao. I understand that because the Han people are completely different from the Liao. But what is the difference between the Daxia people and the Huigu people? I can’t tell at all.”
Yueqiao glanced at her, couldn’t answer. After thinking for a long time. He said ambiguously: “Of course, there are differences. There are Khan for the Huigu and there is Emperor of the Daxia. They are not exactly the same. .”
Qianqian asked: “As you say, there are also different dialects among the Han people. Then, are we also going to fight ourselves?”
Yueqiao has only squinted at her. He felt that this person is so stupid. Whatever he explained, she doesn’t seem to understand. So he decided to ignore her.
After a while, Yueqiao suddenly felt strange. He slowed down and heard the footsteps slammed close, Yueqiao stopped, looked gravely. Qianqian aslo felt something ominous approaching. When the two turned around, they saw two figures in the distance flying at the speed of eagles. Yueqiao immediately recognized them and said: “Fengqiao and Leiqiao? Just two of them?”
While Yueqiao was wondering, Fengqiao and Leiqiao has already stood in front of him. They were equally tall, equally thin, and equally have a cold face that seems hard to close to. The two saw Yueqiao, did not show any brotherhood. Yueqiao knew that the job Master requested for them to do, must not be a good thing. He crossed his arm in front of chest, waiting for their next action.
Fengqiao sneered: “Yueqiao, Master has a gift for us to bring to you.”
Yueqiao saw a black clothed bag in the right hand of Leiqiao. A chill shot in his heart abruptly. Leiqiao threw the bag at a high altitude, then it dropped a human head in front of him. It was the head of Longqiao. Yueqiao had thought about it many times. How would Master revenge her by releasing them? He didn’t believed that he would really kill her. Now her head is here. Her hair is long, her eyes are slightly closed, but mouth is a bit opened. Yueqiao stared at the head of Longqiao, imagined how was she feeling when the time she die. Did she feel relief that she can see her lover in other world? Was this the mercy killing that she asked for? But who has right to take her life? No, no one, she deserved to live and be loved. While Yueqiao was dipped into his thought, Fengqiao said coldly: “Master has something to tell you.” Yueqiao didn’t look at him. Leiqiao continued: “He said, Longqiao exchanged your life with hers, so that you must take care and live well.”
When they finished, the two turned around and left. Yueqiao suddenly screamed, chased behind them and shouted: “You….you tell him… I will definitely, as he said..take care of my life. He is so cold-blooded.. he must not die in peace.” ”
Fengqiao thrust ahead to grab the collar of Yueqiao, said brutally: “It is you! You betrayed Master, you are the one should die, not Longqiao….” At this time, Leiqiao also came over and punched Yueqiao’s nose, said as brutal as Fenqiao: “Master did not intend to kill Longqiao, just because of you, Master wanted you to know, you save her, just hurt her more, it is you, it is you, you are actually the one kill Longqiao…”
The two said many times of you killed Longqiao, to make sure he knows about it, then pushed him down and left.
Yueqiao was sitting there, with nothing in his mind, but it is you kill Longqiao. Repeatedly expanding until even he himself believed in it. He suddenly stood up, yelling, and then pulled out the soft sword…
Qianqian stood by, did not dared to speak but just terrified. When she saw his sword, her heart shivered, in a moment, she realized that Yueqiao is going to kill himself. She instantly jumped over him, grabbed his arms with all her strength. But Yueqiao is much stronger and crazy. The two were pulling the soft sword vigorously for a moment then fell together on the ground. Qianqian hold his arms, pressed with her whole body against his shoulders. Listening to his growling and groaning until they both exhausted. Qianqian still didn’t dare to loose her grab. she gasped and said: “Yueqiao! Yueqiao! You are not going to die like this! If you died, who will avenge for Longqiao? do you just let her die in the hands of this devil for nothing?”
Listened to these words, Yueqiao bursted with tears, finally released his grasp of the sword. He held his head with both hands and cried: “I… I can’t live like this… I don’t want to…I don’t want to…”
What doesn’t he want to? Qianqian did not know.
The sun has sunk, and the red sand has returned to the cold. Qianqian looked up, the sky was full of stars again, like millions pair of eyes blinking. Yueqiao soon stopped crying. The two dug a hole on the hard sandy ground, buried the head of Longqiao. According to the custom of Daxia, they piled stones on the grave. Yueqiao knows that once the dust storm came. Everything will be moved flat again. The beast will also dig up the corpse, but he must let go now.
With the mourning, they walked a few more days until arrived at the border of Daxia and Huigu. Some red clay houses scattered around the border, where the Daxia and the Huigu’ s troops were stationed. Since the first emperor Yuanxiao of Daxia, occupied the vast land of Liangzhou. The residents retreated to the Bailongdui desert. The two countries often fought for the water source. The border area was even more tense. In the past, Yueqiao had support from the Icy Jade Palace. He has always been exempted for the customs. Now he has betrayed the Miaoyin Tianjun. He doesn’t know if they could passed through now.
Yueqiao pretended to be normal, walked side by side with Qianqian. There were several Daxia soldiers appeared from the red clay house. They waved and greeted Yueqiao as usual, and then went back inside. Yueqiao thought: Master’s heart is difficult to speculate. His actions are always unpredictable. He is often unintentional arrogant all his life.
The two successfully cleared the customs and walked through to the territory of Huigu. There was only a few grottoes with some guards on the border of wilderness. They leaned against the wall and smoked. When they saw the two passing by, they didn’t even have a glance. They looked indifferent to everything in the world.
The two continued move on slowly. They walked into the arms of the Bailongdui Desert. The sand here was as fine as salt that looked so innocent. Yueqiao knew that behind this desert was an oasis with sweet water, grapes and melons. He was striding forward with good wishes, but found Qianqian stayed behing. He ran back and saw her sitting on the rock, looked exhausted, sweating and shivering. Yueqiao touched her forehead that was hotter than the sand.
He was forced to announce dreadfuly: “The first layer of the seven bliss has begun to attack.”
He took out the water bladder, fed her some water, then said, “I will carry you!”
At this time, Qianqian was almost unconscious. Yueqiao carried her on his back, walked step by step. Since Qianqian’ body was so hot. It was like walking in the stove with a stove. But at night, she was like a blanket covering him. He felt so warm that he didn’t want to put her down, so he decided to go on walking. He didn’t know how many days he has been walking in the shifts of the moon and the sun. Today’s dawn was accompanied by a cool breeze, a breeze of grass and water. Yueqiao was refreshed. His pace got faster. The sun rose from the horizon of desert of a sudden appeared as green as meadow. Under a mask of mist, it was the oasis. A vineyard of a manor was came to the sight with a gust of grapes. Yueqiao put Qianqian on the roadside. Seeing her eyes were slightly opened, then smiled: “You wait here for me. I am going to find something delicious.” He then sneaked into the vineyard, but soon there was a fruity zest distracted him. He found an orchard behind the grape rack. There were more than ten different kinds of fruit trees. The apricot and the plum was ripen and the cherry was tender. Yueqiao couldn’t resist after walking in the desert for many days. He unvoluntarily opened the fence, broke into the orchard. The first thing he saw was a fruity peach tree. Each peach was as big as an egg of astrich. Yueqiao sniffed and then picked one, hold it with his both hands. Hurriedly took it back to Qianqian, said, “Look!” Qianqian took the peach, saw it as fine as velvet, as round as moon, as white as sand. It smells so peachy and sweety. She instantly was encouraged. Once she bit, the juice splashed on to the faces. Yueqiao was smiling at her with pleasure. Qianqian quickly handed the peach to him, but he just said: “You eat! I pick another one.”
He went back to the orchard again without hesitated. But when he just picked the fruit, he felt itchy at the back. He turned around, saw a woman holding a bloom, sweeping over his head, said: ” How dared you, a thief? steal my precious honey peach.”
Yueqiao flashed backward, bumped on the peach tree. The fragile peach tree couldn’t stand such a bump, a few peaches swayed and dropped. The woman saw it, even more angry, yelled “Okay! How many peaches I lost will cost you as many as heads.”
Yueqiao jumped around, avoiding her sweep and scorned: “Wow! A peach, a head, your peach will talk and walk, eat and pull?”
This kid talked so vulgar, and dressed in the costumes of the Daxia. The woman was reminded how the Daxia people usually oppress the Huigu people, so she has no tolerate to him. But for preventing him from messing around in the orchard. She inserted the handle of the bloom to his belt, picked him up on the grape rack. Yueqiao was shocked by her strength.
The woman leaped on the grape rack, continue beating on him. At the high place, the sky was bright. Yueqiao could see her face. She was about forty years old with her own charm. She dressed as a Han woman but as savage as a beast. She raised her bloom desperately slammed it onto Yueqiao, just like slamming cockroach. Although she didn’t have a style, but her internal strength was surely strong. If she kept hitting like this, Yueqiao would be smashed.
But Yueqiao didn’t want to fight with her, instead he just cautiously dodged. The woman saws the way he moved with light power, she seemed getting annoyed. Suddenly she dropped her bloom, attacked him with palms, Yueqiao didn’t expected she also good at martial arts. Her palms was fierce as a thunder. Yueqiao stood on the side of the grape rack, didn’t prepare to receive. He was push on the chest. He has to fight back but his arms were cramped and powerless. He remembered that all his acupuncture points had been sealed by the master. The longer the time, his internal force would be lost faster.
Yueqiao couldn’t receive her palms. He fell from the rack to the ground, looked injury but though the woman didn’t shop. She jumped down, picked up her broom, hitting fiercely on Yuequao’s ass, like slamming flies, shouted: “Bastard, see you eat or not eat shit, I hit your ass bloom like flower …”
Yueqiao only desperately block her bloom with hands, still did not ask for mercy.
At this time, Qianqian stumbled over the orchid, handed back the peach, said faintly: “Don’t hit him anymore, I returned your peach!”
The woman finally stopped, looked at this young girl holding a half peach in her hand. Her face looked incredibly pale, and then she fainted. Yueqiao and the woman rushed to grab her. The woman hold Qianqian’s wrist and diagnose her pulse. Yueqiao thought: Is this vicious woman a doctor! She pressed Qianqian pulses, then frown gravely, said: “Her pulse is fluent but choked. I think she is not sick, but poisoned.”
Yueqiao found that her diagnoses was fast and accurate, he was overjoyed:”Qianqian maybe cured.”
The woman now looked at Yueqiao seriously. She remembered his light power, said: “You are a kid of the Icy Jade Palace. This girl has eaten seven layers of bliss, right?”
Yueqiao was surprised she was right of everything. He quickly nodded: “Absolutely, certainly.”
The two immediately carried Qianqian to the clay house behind the manor. The two levels house connected by stone stairs, built with only thick red clay. It provided good insulation and shaded. It can stand the extreme climate of desert . Although the interior is dim, it is very refreshing and comfortable. Yueqiao put Qianqian on the pit bed. she looked painful with lips tightened.
The woman has just entered the clay house, then rummaged through the cabinet. Yueqiao looked anxiously and asked, “Hey! What are you looking for? Let’s take care of her first!” The woman didn’t seem to hear it, just digging in the pile of books. Finally she took out a thin book of sheepskins. She immediately opened it, but frowned deeply without saying anything. she glanced at Yueqiao, handed the book over and said, “You can understand this?”
Yueqiao took the book, found that was written in the language of Daxia. He sighed: “I didn’t learn to read. I don’t know …”
The woman was angry when she heard it: “That Miaoyin only taught martial arts to his disciples! Didn’t he teach you to read?”
Yueqiao was really curious who is this woman. She seemed very closed with Miaoyin. Unintentionally, a man walked into the room. He was also about forty years old, in gray robe, square cap. His eyebrows were like a machete, and a pair keen eyes of scholar looked knowledgeable, said: “The language of Daxia is reformed base on Han characters. At the first glance, looked a lot like Chinese, but you can’t read a word at all.” He smiled and walked over to the woman, reaching out his hand for the book. The woman stuffed it into his hand reluctantly. The gray robe scholar opened the sheepskin book and asked, “What are you looking for? I can’t translate them all?”
The woman didn’t look at him, just said, “The seven layers of bliss.”
Yueqiao now realized that they are looking up for the seven layers of bliss. From this, they could figure out how to treat this kind of poison. He was really ignited with hope. He listened to him quietly: “The seven layers of bliss was an ancient medication of Daxia. It was first-class graded, refined from seven kind of poisonous substances, of happy, anger, sorrow, fun, love, evil and desire. It is vigorously toxic. It is symbolic to the seven-layer of hells. The bitterness, the birth and death, the impermanence, the pure land, the life, the consummation, the other shore, the infinite and the west, then finally into the realm of bliss. The Poison can not be lifed. For example, you were in thorns, you don’t move, you will not hurt. If your heart moved, you would hurt your body. So you will experience all kinds of pains in the world. Everything is generated from heart”
The gray robe scholar finished reading, closed the book, and saw the two looked awkward. He then looked at the girl lying on the pit bed, knowing that she must be the one poisoned by the seven layers of bliss. But the book actually said there is no antidote. So they looked disappointed. He said: “Although there is no antidote, we still can find ways to alleviate her pain.”
The woman nodded and felt that he is right. She immediately took out a brocade bag of silver needles. She was about to take off the girl clothes, but the two were still standing still, staring at her. Then she said to Yueqiao: “You are a man, are you?”
Yueqiao was numbed by being too worried. He didn’t answered. Then she said to the gray robe man: “You seem like to be a man too!” The gray robe man smirked, then pulled Yueqiao out of the room quickly.
The woman slided down Qianqian’ clothes then acupointed with the silver needles on her back. She pointed more than a hundred needles already, but she looked even more painful. Suddenly she coughed. All the silver needles rebounded at once, hit on the ceiling . This terrified the woman. She was almost fell on the floor, said: “The seven layers of bliss are so overbearing. It rejects all the treatments. I think this girl has no other way, but go through this hardship.”
The woman walked out of the clay house, saw Yueqiao sitting under the grape rack. Then she said to the man: “You go to boil water for this girl to bath and then get some food for this kid!” The man happily said: “Good! I will go right away.”
The woman looked at Yueqiao. He looked so tired and worried. She pulled him over and slammed on his shoulder. She wanted to check his injury, but suddenly screamed: “You kid! What’s wrong with you? your body is totally in chaos?
Yueqiao did not answer, then she continued: “must be the good deed of that old fellow Miaoyin!”
She called Master an old fellow? Yueqiao thinks: Is she a friend or enemy of master? she is good to save Qianqian, she must not be the same kind of Master. So he answered honestly: “I swallowed Master’s elixir of longevity that is why…”
“Elixir of longevity?” The woman laughed: “These kinds of elixir are all contained the poisonous materials. You have eaten for your master? You saved his life.”
Yueqiao did not understand what she said, just joked: “Is it? I thought I had eaten this elixir and will live forever!”
The woman explained: “You are not as strong as your master. Now that your all acupunctures points have been sealed. First, your internal force would be greatly reduced. Second, the poison cannot be desolved, which is very harmful to the body.”
Yueqian was not surprised what the woman said. He responded causally: “Life and death are in god’s hand.”
The woman saw this kid is completely different from Miaoyin, she asked, ” You are the seventh apprentice of Miaoyin?”
Yueqiao replied: “Yes, I am.”
The woman smiled and said: “dragon, tiger, deer, wind, thunder, sun and moon, then you are Yueqiao?”
Yueqiao nodded, felt that this woman seemed to have a very close relationship with Master. As she massaged the shoulder of Yueqiao, she said, “You are Yueqiao, the one most difficult to tame.”
Yueqiao smiled, asked: “You have known all these details of us, Who are you?”
The woman sneered: “Who am I? Didn’t your Master mention about me?”
Yueqiao simple said: “No, Master never talk about women.”
The woman abruptly stood up, offended: “Well! ! Tuoba Jincai you never put me in my heart.”
Yueqiao sees her called Master’s name resentfully, finally he remembered a person. Once Longqiao talked to him: “Master is not afraid anything in Daxia, but only the Zhao Danfeng in Huigu. You must not mention her in front of the master.” Yueqiao then asked: “You… are that Zhao Danfeng in Huigu?”
The woman was deeply sighed and said: “At that time, I was only sixteen years old. I came here with my father, who was the famous medicine doctor in the Central Plains. We came to the Western Region to collect specimens of toxic snakes for medical studies. One day, we came to the caves of red soil well to collect the venom of green-tailed snake. The unique poison of the green-tailed snake is not as strong as the original in Persian, but it can be put to death in an instant though they are short and small. They hide among grass and weeds, often attacks with dozens of them. The two long fangs bite, and the venom runs all over the body. It is very difficult to treat…… Suddenly, a person rushed out of the cave…”