Ever since returning from the Pandaria, Shao Xian’s mind had been wandering off. She had the feeling that she had forgotten something important. Every night, the tall silhouette of a man with long, silver hair performing a mesmerizing dance would haunt her dreams.
Shao Xian had tried searching for information, which eventually led her to Fang Shui’er, who seemingly shared a connection with the mysterious figure. However, she could not find anything beyond Fang Shui’er. Apart from fragmented memories and the three million that appeared out of nowhere on her bank account balance, there was nothing more.
Shao Xian returned to her city after the trip, but her life did not go on as usual. She doubted the choices she had made in the past and wondered whether it was worth it to sacrifice her dignity in the pursuit of her career.
Instead, she decided to focus on the life skills she had acquired during her time spent on the internet and became a full-time video game streamer. From that day forth, the legend of the female challenger wearing a mask was born, and she began to gain an impressive number of followers online.
Numerous teams and organizations offered her a deal, having noticed her tremendous commercial value, but Shao Xian had declined them all, choosing instead to continue streaming herself playing video games.
Shao Xian always remained quiet when she played, but some of the more observant fans noticed that she always seemed to be seeking something beyond the camera, as if she was waiting for someone.
Shao Xian’s daily life continued without much of a change, until today.
“Who are you looking for?” Shao Xian opened the small window of her anti-burglary door and looked at the man standing outside.
“Are you Shao Xian?” The visitor smiled.
“Yes,” Shao Xian answered. The warm smile of the man made her lower her guard slightly, but his looks definitely worked against him — his short curly hair was unkempt, he wore a grey linen jacket and a pair of blue pants which were rolled up to his knees, revealing a pair of hairy legs. His shoes consisted of nothing more than a pair of plastic sandals, and he held a worn-out knit bag.
Although the man had a warm expression, Shao Xian could think of him as nothing other than a recyclable materials collector.
“So I’m at the right address. May I come in?” The man asked.
“Huh?” Shao Xian hesitated for obvious reasons.
“I have some things I’d like to discuss with you.” The man spoke with graceful manners.
“About what?” Shao Xian pulled on the collar of her shirt, having been wearing her shirt rather casually as she was home alone.
“Do you mind if I smoke?” The man suddenly stepped back and took out a half-finished pack of cigarettes.
“I want you to sing a song for me.” The man lit up a cigarette and was considerate enough to turn his head to the side before exhaling.
“Sing a song? For you?” Shao Xian did not expect such a request, despite having received many similar ones before.
“Yes. Only one song and you don’t need to go anywhere special for it. You can just record it and release it on the internet.” The man stepped back and took another whiff.
“I…” Shao Xian hesitated.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to do it for free. The compensation’s in here. You can have a look at the song first and then decide.” The man took out a brand-new enveloped from his bag and held it in front of the small window.
“This…” Shao Xian received the object.
“Thank you.” The man saluted Shao Xian and turned around.
“Hey… Wait… Hey!” Shao Xian said, but the man was already gone.
‘What…?’ Shao Xian frowned as she looked at the envelope, creeped out by what just happened. She did not dare to run after the man, and thought about staying inside for a few days before leaving home again, for safety’s sake.
Shao Xian closed the small window on her door, observed the staircase outside for a while through the cat’s eye, and then went back to her computer. She opened the envelope and found a flash drive and a bank card inside.
“Compensation. Password: 000000.” was written on the bank card with a marker. Shao Xian inserted the drive into a port on her computer and performed a virus scan. After opening it, she found a text file and an audio file.
A brief glance at the text file revealed a few paragraphs of texts looking like the lyrics to a song.
“The Great Path is invisible, but it gives birth to heaven and earth.
The Great Path is impassive, but it moves moon and stars.
The Great Path is anonymous, but it nurtures all.
I don't know its name, so inadequately I named it the “Path”.
One’s soul wants to be pure, but one’s mind disturbs it;
one’s mind wants to be calm, but one’s desires tethers it.
Eliminating one’s desires, one’s mind will becalm;
clearing one’s mind, one’s soul will become pure;naturally the desires from the six senses will stop emerging,
and the three spiritual poisons will vanish.
The reason common people cannot find the true Path, is because their minds are full of fantasies.
As the mind is full of fantasies, the soul is disturbed; as the soul is disturbed, worldly temptations clung on; as worldly temptations clung on, greed emerges; as greed emerges, there comes the worries.
Worries and fantasies, agonizing the body and mind, tarnishing the soul, leading one to wander within cycles of life and death, and sink into an ocean of misery, losing sight of the true Path forever.“
‘Are these the lyrics?’ Shao Xian wondered. The paragraphs of texts seemed more like ancient scriptures than anything else, but it was a rather positive message. If it were lyrics for propaganda, she would have resorted to calling the police.
Shao Xian clicked on the audio file, and an instrumental piece began playing.
‘This is amazing! How have I never heard this before? Who came up with this?’ Shao Xian was amazed to hear the five traditional chords mixed together perfectly. The training she had received as a music student allowed her to quickly identify and note down every single note in the piece.
After a short moment of listening, Shao Xian began searching online and found the lyrics without much difficulty.
‘The Scripture of Purity and Stillness? A Taoist scripture?’ Shao Xian wondered. ‘What about the music?’
‘...Nothing? Did that man come up with this? Who is he?’ After a while of searching in vain, Shao Xian concluded that the man she had just met must have been the genius composer of the song. However, as she tried to recall what the man looked like, she found herself only capable of remembering vague details such as his disheveled attire and his worn-out bag.
Shao Xian turned her attention toward the bank card and used the number to access the online banking system.
‘Five million for compensation?’ The amount laid before her eyes was beyond what she would have guessed.
* * *
“Is there something wrong?” Behind the window, the man stared at the coffee shop in the distance.
“I don’t know. He’s been sitting there for three hours of drinking water. It’s his ninth cup already.” Another man with a sinister air put down his binoculars and said.
“Nothing. No calls, no talking, just sitting there.”
“Has he looked our way?”
“No. We’ve checked the surveillance. He glanced at some passersby, but not a single time in our direction.
“He knows then… He’s waiting for us.” The fair-skinned man sighed.
“You don’t know what it’s like to deal with a sage. I don’t think our interference barrier is doing much to hide our presence. When you think about it, I can’t find another possible reason for sitting there and doing nothing,” The fair-skinned man said, “If he wanted to talk with us, he could have given us a hint, but just sitting there… I can only think of it as a warning, or he’s trying to lure us into making the first move.”
“So what do we…”
“Let’s follow the plan. I’ll go meet him.” The fair-skinned man sighed and took out a vial of crimson liquid.
“Don’t worry, I’m just going there to have a quick talk. I don’t think he’ll attack us first. He should have the pride of a sage, after all. Making it back in one piece shouldn’t be too hard…”
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