Chapter 7 – Strange Occurrences
“You see, the lush mountains and the limpid water streaming through them supposedly make Lianyun Peak a perfect place for meditation, but I just couldn’t settle down.” Qing Feng tried to straighten his back, but to no avail as his aged body worked against him.
“Couldn’t settle down? Does this have anything to do with what’s happening right now?” Li Yiming conjected. He had a feeling that there was a reason behind the old Dao master’s storytelling.
“I’ve found the reason after eleven years.”
“Oh?” For the first time, Li Yiming was really paying attention.
“I see a game here.” Qing Feng raised his head, and Li Yiming caught a spark of light in his pupils that he would have missed had he not given his full attention.
“Perhaps the whole world is a game, and this is all just one piece in the grand scheme of things. It’s unfortunate that I can’t see more.”
“Master, you mean that…” An avalanche of thoughts flew past Li Yiming’s mind, but every single one of them seemed impossible. After all, Qing Feng was nothing more than an ordinary old man. If it were not for Eyeglasses, Li Yiming would not even have taken him seriously.
“What is happening here is part of the game…” Qing Feng stared straight into Li Yiming’s eyes.
“The abnormalities since the end of last year… After forty years of calculations, I’m sure that we are about to see the results. If the necessary precautions aren’t taken, this could end up a catastrophe for the entire world.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Li Yiming frowned. He knew that Qing Feng was getting somewhere, especially when he remembered the photograph of the golden wok.
“I have led sixty-two people into his backyard since the first team showed up. You see, the nine-hundred and eighty-one bricks here each have a meaning of their own. Some people stepped on life, others walked on death, but you…” Qing Feng, who no longer seemed like the feeble old man from just a moment ago, gazed at Li Yiming intensely.
Li Yiming stayed silent and lowered his head with confusion. ‘These bricks have such deep meanings?’
“You’ve taken seventy-four steps in this backyard, and yet you avoided every single brick that betrayed your fate. Even I would not be able to do this, despite having studied the foundations of this abbey for more than forty years.”
Li Yiming was shocked. ‘Are you serious? Is he going to tell me that I’m some kind of special genius and try to sell me a product?’ If it were not for supernatural events that occurred, Li Yiming would have thought Qing Feng to be some kind of swindler after such a clichéd opening.
“So you mean that…”
“Whatever is happening here, you’re not in it.” Qing Feng’s eyes shone as he spoke slowly.
Li Yiming remained expressionless, but his heart was plunged into stupor. ‘Not in it… Does he mean that I’m a bug under Heaven’s Laws…?’
“Yiming, come! Eyeglasses found something.” Liu Meng’s hurried voice came from the front of the temple.
“Coming.” Li Yiming answered. He bowed to Qing Feng once again, this time with reverence. “Do you have an answer for what is happening here?”
“You’re overestimating my abilities. I’m just an ordinary man who has read a few books. How could I know about the truths of this world?” Qing Feng touched his beard and the light left his eyes.
“Master, you have been pursuing the way of the Dao your entire life. What do you think of Heaven’s Dao?” Li Yiming gave Qing Feng’s opinion his full respect and attention. ‘He claims that he’s just an ordinary man, and yet he has so much insight…’
“It is said that the Way is one which nurtures our world and moves the sun and the moon. I don’t know its name, so I shall confer one to it.” Qing Feng mumbled a passage from a scripture.
“There’s no Dao, but everything is governed by the rules?” Li Yiming frowned, but he understood what it meant after a bit of thinking. ‘I see, he means that despite all of the extraordinary things I have experienced, everything was linked together and abided to Heaven’s Laws… The guardians, the domains, and the wills of this world… but am I special? No, I’m no exception. I can also be a victim of Heaven’s Punishment. Bai Ze said that I don’t fit within the rules of this world, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not bound by the rules…’
“Thank you for your wisdom.” Li Yiming saluted the old man once again.
“I am only repeating the words of the wise men that lived before us.” Qing Feng waved his hand.
Li Yiming nodded and turned away.
In the front yard, the team had assembled together. Eyeglasses was busy putting his equipment together, while You Fang glanced toward Duan’Ou Peak from time to time. Chen Quan was staring at the ground with a severe countenance, seemingly sunken in deep thoughts.
“Did you find anything?” Li Yiming asked Liu Meng, who had been waiting for him to arrive.
“Everything’s normal,” Eyeglasses answered. He put his equipment back into the metal box, and looked at Li Yiming with seriousness.
“Yes. Everything’s normal. Nothing in the satellite data suggests otherwise,” Liu Meng added.
Li Yiming looked in the direction of Duan’Ou Peak. ‘That’s the worst.’
“How long will it take for us to get there?” Lin Lu put her pistol in her holster and added an M4 to her back.
“At walking speed… about two days.” Eyeglasses’ eyes paused on You Fang, who was bound to be the slowest due to his age.
“We’re changing our plans. We’ll be leaving for Duan’Ou Peak right away.” Lin Lu decided, without even giving a chance for the inputs of the rest of the team.
“Wait… are we going just like that? It’s a mountain, you know?”
“That’s the point of our trip, isn’t it? To investigate the paranormal activities here.” Shen Jianming took control of the three spider robots.
“Let’s go.” Chen Quan looked at the dilapidated yet still majestic abbey one last time, and tried to imprint it into his mind one last time.
“So, what did Master Qing Feng tell you?” Eyeglasses slowed down to have a word with Li Yiming.
“A thousand years of tradition cannot be taken lightly.” Li Yiming looked back at the abbey gravely.
“By the way, I haven’t told you, but every single leader of the country have been here, including the one with his face on the bills.” Eyeglasses chuckled and refrained from asking more. 1
“Heritage…” Li Yiming whispered. ‘It seems like a lot of things have been lost for the sake of progress. Who would have known that there was such an amazing person living in such a place, isolated from the rest of the world?’
“Alright, I need a rest. I’m not like you youngsters.” You Fang said between two shallow breaths, his back leaning against tree. This was the third time he called for a break in six hours.
“Alright. We will stop for ten minutes. Zhang Shanjun, set up the perimeter. Eyeglasses, please check our coordinates again,” Lin Lu complied, but not without some frustration. She looked at You Fang, who seemed to be completely exhausted.
“Did you notice?” Li Yiming let go of Liu Meng’s hand and gave his water bottle to her. He then raised his head toward the tree branches above him and glanced at the sun.
“Yes. It’s way too quiet.” Liu Meng handed the bottle back without drinking from it. Li Yiming smiled at her and sipped it lightly.
“What?” Lin Lu looked at the pair with her M4 ready. Even she had started to feel tired after six hours in the wild, and yet Liu Meng and Li Yiming did not even show a single drop of sweat. They seemed like a couple on a leisurely hiking trip more than anything else. ‘Are you kidding me? These two…’
“It’s too quiet here. No animals, no birds,” Eyeglasses said. Lianyun Peak was right in the middle of the Tianshan range, and the forest they were traveling through was left completely untouched, to the point of leaving a place like Xianyun Abbey untouched.
“Even the mosquitoes are gone. Have you noticed? There are no insects around us.” Liu Meng drank a mouthful of water and closed the cap tightly. Instead of giving the bottle back to Li Yiming, she put it on her own belt.
“This is getting stranger by the minute…” Lin Lu frowned. Despite calling for a break for the rest of the team, she clung onto her weapon; she had noticed the anomalies since a while ago.
“What do you make of this, Mr. You Fang?” Lin Lu looked at You Fang, who was uncouthly drinking water, spilling the liquid onto his collar and the rest of his shirt. His pants and shirt sleeves were rolled up, revealing a few leg hair, which stood in stark contrast with his composed and otherworldly air a few hours ago. ‘Are you serious? Well, if we’ve taken the trouble to bring him his far, then he should at least show us his competence.’
“There’s something dangerous… lurking around here. Please… be careful.” You Fang tried to speak as he did before, but his pants ruined the act.
“Something dangerous?” Chen Quan was using a compass Li Yiming had not seen him use before. He smiled contemptuously as he listened to You Fang’s warning.
This style is borrowed from the once-popular (and maybe still popular) tomb-raiding novels back in China a few years ago.
1.The one with his face on the bills is Mao Zedong.