Chapter 9: Sweetrock Township (2)[EN: We changed the names of all the towns and Englishised them.]
Looking at boundless sea, Owen told Ah Dai, “In the future, we are going to live here. Do you know where we are?”
Shaking his head, Ah Dai replied, “I don’t know.” He had been very silent for the whole journey. While he was riding on the horse, he just sat there in a daze, even after a whole day, he would never complain about his aching body. Unless Owen asked him something, he would not speak up on his own. Owen also noticed that Ah Dai had become quieter than before, and he knew the reason it. However, he never questioned Ah Dai, because he believed that Ah Dai would get used to the life here after some time.
Sweetrock Town was one of numerous small towns in the Sipho Tribe that was situated near the sea. Many of the current people in the Sipho Tribe were migrants from the Prosperous Empire, therefore black haired people, such as Ah Dai, were quite a common sight. Arriving there, Ah Dai no longer stood out from the crowds, and this was the only thing that made Ah Dai feel slightly better.
For the whole journey, Owen tried his best to accommodate Ah Dai. In order to let Ah Dai endure sitting on the horse for a long period of time, Owen bought a thick soft cushion specially for Ah Dai. Although Ah Dai would always respond with a shake of his head, Owen continued to show concern for Ah Dai, asking if he was tired or hungry every few hours. Ah Dai was no longer as quiet as when he had just left the illusionary forest, but the big barrier between Owen and him, was still there.
Owen and Ah Dai stepped into Sweetrock Town. As it was early in the morning, most of the laborers were either out fishing, or working in the ship factory of the Sipho Tribe. There were mostly women, kids and elderly left in the town. Occasionally, they would see some wives sitting together by the roadside washing their clothes, while their children played merrily nearby.
In order to not incite enmity from the villagers, Owen hid his broadsword behind some rocks near the sea, changed into a set of common civilian clothes, and even sold his horse before entering the village. But even so, they still managed to arouse suspicion from the villagers. A man who seemed around fifty years old, walked up to them and curiously asked, “You aren’t locals, are you? What are you doing here?” The language of the United Regions Commonwealth was different from the language of the Heaven’s Gold Empire. Even within the commonwealth, the six great tribes had different dialects, if one was not familiar they would find it hard to differentiate. On the way, Owen would teach Ah Dai some different languages with weird pronunciations. Although Ah Dai was a slow learner and could only learn a few simple words, he did not get fed up. Only now did Ah Dai realise, that the words that Owen taught him, were the dialects of the people here. He was barely able to understand what the elderly man was saying.
Owen had a smile on this face, and replied in the dialect of the Sipho Tribe, “Hello, I was born here, it’s just that I had left for a long time.”
Hearing the same dialect, the old man visibly lowered his guard, and spoke, “Are you from the town? I can’t seem to recall you.”
Owen glanced at the man a few times, suddenly speaking out in surprise, “Ah! Aren’t you Brother Schiel?”
Schiel was shocked, “How do you know that my name is Schiel? You, who are you exactly! Why don’t I have any impression of you.”
“Schiel, it really is you, I am Owen! You forgot me? I’ve left for almost fifty years. Do you remember that time when we were young, playing with mud? We even got a beating that time.” Owen excitedly recalled.
Schiel stared at Owen, dumbfounded. After a long time, he finally spoke, “You, you really are big brother Owen. But, but, why do you look so young?”
Owen rolled up his white sleeve, revealing a fair-skinned arm, and there was a dark purple moon-shaped scar. “Look, it was from saving you, that I got cut by the boat’s anchor. Do you remember?”
Meanwhile, Ah Dai was just staring blankly at Owen and Schiel. They were speaking too fast, and Ah Dai could barely catch a few words.
Schiel grabbed Owen’s arm, closely inspecting it. “Ah! You really are big brother Owen! If not for you, I would have died in the sea that time. However, brother, how are you still so young! I remember, you are even older than me by two years. I’m 56 this year, while you were born in February, Year 931 of the Holy Calendar, which means that you are 58 this year. I can’t tell, I really can’t tell it all!”
Owen smiled, “Actually it was nothing. It was probably because I’ve always been living in the forest, and absorbed some natural energy from the Earth, making me seem younger. Schiel, is our ancestral houses still there?”
Nodding, Schiel replied, “Yes. Let’s go, I’ll bring you to take a look. I’ve already taken over my father’s position and was the town mayor for quite some years. With our relationship, there is no one who will dare to lay a hand on your ancestral house. However, it’s a bit dilapidated now. If you want to live in it, you need to do some renovations first. Big brother, now that you are back, are you still going to leave next time?”
Owen shook his head, sighing, “Ah—, I won’t be leaving anymore. I’ve been travelling for most of my life, it’s time that I returned. Ah! Right, brother, this is my distant nephew, and he is my only family now. We will be living here, perhaps, I will live here until my death.”
“Big brother, I was just worrying that there will be no one to accompany me. Now that you’re back, let us accompany each other. Let’s go, I’ll bring you to the ancestral house, wait till my sons are back and they will help you renovate it. Then, we can be neighbors again.” Schiel laughed heartily as he spoke.
Under Schiel’s enthusiastic guidance, Ah Dai and Owen soon arrived at a courtyard facing the sea. This courtyard was quite some distance away from the houses of the other villagers in Sweetrock Town. Looking at the courtyard before him, Owen’s eyes turned red. After all, this was where he had spent his childhood days.
Patting Owen’s shoulders, Schiel spoke, “Hmm, thinking of your parents again? Ah, that huge tsunami had indeed caused countless deaths!”
Owen glanced at Schiel, replying, ”It’s already been so many years, what’s the use of thinking?” As he spoke, he took out some gold coins from his pouch and stuffed them into Schiel’s hands. “Brother, it has been so many years, I’ve become unfamiliar with this place, so I need to trouble you to find some people to help me fix this house.”
Schiel immediately declined, “Brother, what are you doing? Aren’t we brothers? Now that you’ve finally returned, it is my duty to help you. Do not worry, in the town, I’m still quite influential. When my sons return from work, I’ll have them get some wood and materials, and repair the house for you. It should just take about a day. Don’t give me money, if not, I’ll take offense.”
“How can I do this, troubling you is already enough, how can I ask you to pay as well. Quick, take it, if not I will not stay here anymore,” insisted Owen. The two of them started bickering for a long time. Finally, Schiel could not argue against Owen, and accepted the money.
“Brother, go take a look at your ancestral house first. I’ll make some preparations and you can come over to eat lunch. Let us have a few drinks, I have some aged wine at home, haha.” As he spoke, Schiel turned around and walked towards the town.
Looking at Schiel’s disappearing back, Owen told Ah Dai, “Next time you see him, call him Uncle Schiel and call me Uncle, okay? This is where we will be staying from now on.”
Ah Dai nodded, asking, “Uncle, when will you start teaching me martial arts?”
Owen smiled and replied, “Anxious? I know you want to go back and see your teacher earlier, but martial arts cannot be learned in just a few days. We need to make full preparations before we begin. Let’s go, I’ll bring you inside to take a look, it’s been forty years since I last returned.”
Ah Dai managed to understand Owen and Schiel’s conversation about their age, and he curiously asked, “Uncle, are you really 58 years old?”
Owen looked at Ah Dai, gently speaking, “Yes! I’m 58 already. The reason why I still look so young, is because of the martial arts that I cultivate. It has an effect of slowing down the aging process, making me seem much younger. After we settle down, uncle will impart the martial arts to you.”
When Owen pushed open the unlocked door, a musty smell greeted him. He wrinkled his brows, and brought Ah Dai inside. There was nothing around the courtyard that was about thirty square metres large, except for the two tiled-roof houses with closed doors. The surrounding walls were covered with cobwebs, but fortunately, there was no moss due to the salinity near the sea. If not, cleaning up would be a much harder task.
Two days later, with Schiel’s enthusiastic help, Owen’s ancestral house was completely refurbished, and was even filled with some furniture that Owen had bought. Due to Schiel’s identity as the mayor, the people of the town gradually grew to accept Owen and Ah Dai.
Ah Dai had become very relaxed, compared to the wooden hut in the illusionary forest, this place was more like a home to him and everyone treated him very well. He got to know Schiel’s three sons and the eldest son seemed to look around Owen’s age. However, when Schiel had told them that Owen was even older than him, his family all had looks of disbelief. Schiel’s three sons were already married, and his oldest granddaughter was merely younger than Ah Dai by 2 years. The remaining two grandsons were 7 years old and 3 years old.
In the evening, after he had sent Schiel’s family off, Owen stood in the middle of the courtyard. He took a deep breath of the brackish sea breeze and said, “Ah Dai, come here.”
Ah Dai had just finished washing the dishes. When he heard that Owen had called, he dried his hands and walked toward Owen. “Uncle.”
Owen turned around, looked at Ah Dai and solemnly said, “I know, you really hate me, you hate me for forcing you to leave your teacher. However, starting from tonight, will be imparting to you, my lifetime of martial arts. I hope that you can learn it seriously. If you want to see your teacher again, you must completely learn all of my martial arts before you go. Do you understand?”
Ah Dai nodded, and quietly said, “Yes.” He had voiced his agreement, but in his heart, he was already thinking about the illusionary forest, wondering if Teacher Gliss had returned.
“From today onwards, you are not allowed to practise the magic that Gliss taught you, it will make you distracted. In this town, magic is not commonly seen, so do not use your fire magic in front of people, okay?”
Ah Dai raised his head, staring intently at Owen as he insisted, “No, I must continue practising magic. I mustn’t forget the magic that Teacher taught me.”
Owen was shocked, it was the first time that Ah Dai had rebuked his words. However, he did not get angry, and gently said, “Child, you need to understand, magic and martial arts cannot be learned at the same time. There is a limit to how much one can learn in his life. It is not an easy feat to even master one of the two professions, not to mention learning both at the same time. Your teacher Gliss will not blame you.”
Ah Dai stubbornly shook his head. “No, I can’t do that, I must practise magic. I can stop using it in front of people, but I must practise it every day.”
Owen thought for a while before replying, “Okay then, if you insist. I will allow you to practise it for one hour every night, but you can’t let it interfere with your martial arts training, can you do that? If you can’t, then you must give up on magic.”
Nodding, Ah Dai said, “Yes, I can definitely do this.”
“Okay, today I will first teach you the basics of martial arts. The dou qi cultivation method that I use, is called the Boundless Life Art, which means to have an endless life force. It increases and strengthens your life force, transforming it to dou qi that contains holy power. This can be said to be the most authentic high-level dou qi cultivation method on the continent. It is also the best method to improve one’s body, and that is why I still look so young. When circulating the Boundless Life Art in your body, you can produce the true qi that your teacher Gliss mentioned. When expelling the true qi and using it to attack, it becomes the dou qi. As you have eaten the Fruit of Rebirth, your cultivation speed will be much faster. Let’s go back to the house, I’ll teach you the mnemonic.”
After returning to the house, Owen said in a serious tone, “The main principle of the Boundless Life Art is to grow without end. As long as your true qi is endless, you can have endless dou qi to attack.” Previously, it was because of the Boundless Life Art that Owen was able to have an endless amount of true qi to scare away the assassins. “You must remember the first verse, it is: Qi as will directs, Qi from the heart, refine the Qi essence, have endless life force.
[TN: I cant… make it flow in english.. The problem with the 4 words craze in chinese]
The first step in cultivation is the foundation of the Boundless Life Art. Okay, let’s begin.”
Owen made Ah Dai sit cross-legged on the bed, while he sat behind Ah Dai, his right hand placed on the middle of Ah Dai’s back, instructing, “Close your eyes, silently recite the mnemonic. You have to understand the meaning behind it, and you have to use your mind to sense the places where the warm qi circulates, remembering the places. Okay, let us start.”