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unsheathed – Chapter 36: Ancient Book

Chapter 36: Ancient Book

Chapter 36: Ancient Book

After a short while, Liu Xianyang ran back over with a bamboo basket on his back. Chen Ping'an was watching the workers digging the wells, yet he almost faceplanted into the ground when Liu Xianyang came over and kicked him in the rear. Glancing back and realizing that it was Liu Xianyang, Chen Ping'an decided not to make a fuss about this.

Liu Xianyang casually said, "It's all done now. Master Ruan told me to stay put and not run around for the next few days. I'll be digging wells in the morning and forging iron at night. After two weeks or so, I'll become his first disciple in this small town. What was it called again? The opening disciple or something. I also found a bamboo basket for you, and I can use it to help you collect those pebbles. We can start from the blacksmith forge and work our way up to the covered bridge. Let me say this first though. I can't help you when we get to the pit at the Azure Cow Ridge. Master Ruan said that he'll break my legs if I dare to venture north or west of the covered bridge during these few days."

Liu Xianyang dragged Chen Ping'an across and wrapped his arm around his shoulders, saying, "Master Ruan said that our belongings in the small town won't go missing. He also said that those outsiders have to abide by an extremely strange rule. They're allowed to make fair trades, and they're also allowed to trick and cheat others. In fact, they're even allowed to act like beggars who pick at scraps. However, they're definitely not allowed to become thieves. He said that the heavens here won't doze off or shut its eyes. Instead, it's staring at us the entire time. Doesn't that sound creepy to you? At least I find it extremely creepy."

Liu Xianyang suddenly warned, "Chen Ping'an! You can continue to stay at my place, but don't let me find out that you've already sold my suit of armor when I return!"

Chen Ping'an hammered Liu Xianyang's chest, causing the tall young boy to hurriedly let go of him. Liu Xianyang rubbed his chest a few times before finally managing to catch his breath, scolding, "You're like a skinny little monkey, so where in the world is your strength coming from? Perhaps your strength rose exponentially because you traversed long mountain paths with Old Man Yao? Or because you went deep into the mountains to chop firewood for several months?"

Chen Ping'an smiled and replied, "No matter what, I can run back to town faster than you even with a basket full of rocks on my back."

Liu Xianyang shot him a sideways glance and suggested, "Then let's see which of us can hold our breath for longer underwater?"

When they neared the creek, Chen Ping'an bent down and rolled up his pant legs, saying, "I won't compete with you if it's only about a single breath."

Before entering the water, Chen Ping'an plucked some spring grass from the creekside and laid it on the bottom of his bamboo basket. He also said that he would need to put in a new layer for every 20 pebbles that they collected. Liu Xianyang was so annoyed that he was just about to toss the bamboo basket to Chen Ping'an. However, Chen Ping'an stopped him, saying that if he were to carry the basket instead, Liu Xianyang would definitely toss the pebbles into it in a careless manner, being such an impatient person and all. That would cause his heart to ache.

Liu Xianyang was almost about to drop the basket and leave. These colorful pebbles had been worthless for hundreds upon thousands of years, yet when it came to Chen Ping'an, they were suddenly fragile and precious now? And Chen Ping'an even dared to complain about him not being gentle enough?

In the end, however, the tall and broad youth still waded into the creek in a begrudging manner. Walking next to Chen Ping'an, they would thoroughly sift through the bottom of the creek to look for those colorful pebbles. This section of the creek was knee-deep, and there were also some slightly deeper areas that would reach up to their waist. On occasion, they would also come across some small pits that were as deep as a person.

Generally speaking, it was in these areas that the larger pebbles were gathered. These were also the areas where Liu Xianyang could show off his skills. He would first hand the bamboo basket to Chen Ping'an, who would often be squatting on a large rock. Afterward, Liu Xianyang would hold his breath and dive to the bottom of the creek, picking out the snake gall pebbles from the cracks in the large boulders or from among the layers of rock and sediment.

Of course, Chen Ping'an was also capable of doing this as well. However, it was far more difficult for him, and it would take him much more time and effort than Liu Xianyang.

They were yet to arrive at the covered bridge, yet the bamboo basket was already about three-quarters full. Among the snake gall pebbles, there was one that was dark green in color, and it had taken Liu Xianyang three dives and much difficulty to retrieve. It was as large as a hand, and there were also golden specks scattered throughout the pebble, along with wave-like patterns. This pebble was solid and heavy, and when Chen Ping'an rubbed it with his hands, it felt as if it were flickering with a vigorous aura.

As long as one wasn't blind, they would understand that this was no ordinary pebble.

In the end, the two youths sat side-by-side on a large rock in the creek. Liu Xianyang leaned back and used his arms to prop himself up as he gazed at the flowing creek, asking, "Chen Ping'an, have you thought about leaving the small town in the future?"

"Not at the moment," Chen Ping'an replied. "If I want to leave, I'll need to have enough money first, after all. Moreover, what will happen to my house after I leave? There'll be no one to look after it for me, so what will I do if it suddenly collapses one day? In any case, my parents' graves are also here, and I need to remove the weeds around them from time to time."

Liu Xianyang was slightly exasperated as he exclaimed, "Why do you always think about all these useless things? How uninteresting! No wonder Song Jixin said that you're destined to be stuck here forever!"

Chen Ping'an turned around, smiling and asking, "Do you still remember what I told you last time? About that tree?"

Liu Xianyang huffed and replied, "What's so incredible about a tree sprouting from a grave? In any case, that's the grave of another branch of the Chen Clan; it's got nothing to do with you, Chen Ping'an!"

Chen Ping'an crossed his legs and said softly with emotion, "I wonder if there are many people with the surname Chen outside our small town."

"I don't know about the outside, but I know that there are only a few cats and dogs with the surname Chen in our small town," Liu Xianyang replied. "Apart from you, the other members of the Chen Clan are all servants for the Four Families and Ten Clans. This has been the case for generation after generation. What's funny, however, is that these people are always bowing and humbling themselves before their masters, yet when they head out and see other people, they immediately put on a different expression and act as if they're superior. So, Old Man Yao was correct. If you also went and became their servant, then this branch of the Chen Clan that stayed in the small town could be considered completely finished."

According to Old Man Yao, there had originally been two different branches of the Chen Clan in the small town. However, one of the branches had moved out a very long time ago. Meanwhile, the branch that Chen Ping'an belonged to had also flourished at some point in time. However, this was far too long ago.

In fact, even Old Man Yao couldn't say how long ago it was. Was it 500 years? Or 800 years? Or was it 1000 years? Afterward, this branch split into several sub-branches, and the overall population also started to decline gradually. Their fortune was perhaps all taken away by the other branch of the Chen Clan. Thus, the bloodlines started to disappear one by one, resulting in many graves being forgotten and abandoned. Not only that, but many of the mountains where the graves were located were sealed off and turned into restricted areas by the kiln supervision officials sent over by the imperial court.

The final time Old Man Yao brought Chen Ping'an into the mountains, he pointed to an area when they passed by a certain mountain, telling him that this was the burial place of the ancestors of the other branch of the Chen Clan. The feng shui there was especially good. As for the branch that Chen Ping'an belonged to, Old Man Yao said that even the immortals wouldn't be able to find their ancestral burial grounds.

For the past few centuries, this branch of the Chen Clan hadn't produced a single competent person. They were all impoverished families, and their only achievement was that they hadn't bowed down and become servants of the Four Surnames and Ten Clans.

Chen Ping'an had secretly visited that ancestral burial place once, and apart from weeds, he had also seen many foxes and rabbits. However, he hadn't been able to find a grave. There was a tree that he didn't recognize though, and this was a short tree that was nowhere near as tall as the old locust tree.

Weeds growing everywhere, foxes and rabbits hopping around, lonely and helpless, and single tree sprouting...

Chen Ping'an shook his head and said, "Before my mother passed away, she made me swear that I would never become a servant for those large clans and families. I could become a beggar, but even if I starved to death, I should never become their servant."

"Before your mother passed away, didn't you also swear that you would never become a disciple at the dragon kilns?" Liu Xianyang instinctively said.

The young boy in straw sandals wore a dejected expression. He didn't throw a retort, nor did he become enraged that his broken promise had been exposed.

Liu Xianyang felt a little guilty. However, he wasn't the type of person to apologize, so he could only pretend that nothing had happened. He stood up and said, "Alright, I'm leaving now, I need to go back to dig some wells. Oh, that's right, I'll annoy Master Ruan a bit more and try to have him hire you as a temporary apprentice. At that time, it'll also be much easier for you to collect these pebbles."

"There's no hurry," Chen Ping'an replied. "We'll talk about it after those two groups of people give up and leave the small town. In the meantime, I'll help you look after your house."

"Say, why can I escape danger if I become Master Ruan's disciple?" Liu Xianyang asked in curiosity.

Chen Ping'an pondered for a moment before replying in an uncertain voice, "Perhaps it's like the arrival of a sudden downpour. You have to find some cover no matter what, right?"

Liu Xianyang turned around to glance at the blacksmith forge, saying, "Who do you think Master Ruan is? He doesn't look like a very powerful person... Can he really suppress those two groups of people?"

"You can't judge a person by their appearance," Chen Ping'an said in comfort.

Liu Xianyang glanced at him. "Chen Ping'an, you look like a poor person, so are you really a poor person?"

Chen Ping'an grimaced, rendered speechless by these words.

Liu Xianyang stood up and asked, "Do you want me to carry it to the covered bridge for you?"

Chen Ping'an shook his head and replied, "No, I'm fine. It's not too heavy anyway."

"Remember to return the bamboo basket to me next time."

After saying this, Liu Xianyang directly jumped down from the large rock. He advanced briskly in the creek, sending splashes of water everywhere.

Chen Ping'an slung the bamboo basket over his shoulders and carefully climbed down from the large rock. After returning onshore, he slowly made his way toward the covered bridge.

After walking for a while, he heard footsteps behind him. Turning around, he saw that it was Liu Xianyang.

Under the warm sunshine of early spring, the tall and broad young boy snatched the bamboo basket from the young boy in straw sandals. He slung it over his own shoulders and said in a teasing voice, "Looking at you from the distance, it was as if you were a pitiful ant carrying a large boulder. I decided to show some mercy and kindness, so I returned to help you carry the basket to the covered bridge."

The two youths walked amid the spring breeze.

"Chen Ping'an, if I become successful in the future, I'm definitely going to head out to take a look. I'll also find myself a wife who's even more beautiful than Zhi Gui, and I'll also drink the best wine and live in the largest house. I'll also ride the quickest horse!

"I'll visit a mountain that's as tall as the heavens, and I'll journey to a river that's countless times bigger than this creek.

"In conclusion, I definitely won't stay in this small place my entire life and wait for death."

Walking through the gentle spring breeze, the tall young boy dreamed about a bright and exciting future. Meanwhile, the young boy in straw sandals chewed the straw in his mouth. One person spoke, and one person listened.

When Chen Ping'an returned to Liu Xianyang's house with the basket of pebbles, he picked out his favorite few pebbles and took them to the wing room like always. As for the other pebbles, he left them in the kitchen. After locking the house door and courtyard door, he ran back to Clay Vase Alley. When he arrived home, he saw the young woman in black sitting in the courtyard and enjoying the sun. After greeting her, Chen Ping'an started to brew a pot of medicine.

There was a hacking sound coming from next door, and Chen Ping'an couldn't help but find this strange. Even though Song Jixin had no parents to look after him, he had never been short on food or clothes. In fact, he had always had a lot of spare money. Perhaps he wasn't as well off as the young masters from the Four Surnames, but his wealth and lifestyle could definitely rival those from the Ten Clans. Books and brushes, small and exquisite trinkets, beautiful and elegant ornaments... These were extravagant things that Chen Ping'an had never heard of before, much less seen. From time to time, a new addition would adorn Song Jixin's study.

In fact, Song Jixin and his maidservant never had to perform any dirty or tiring tasks. Pickling vegetables was too pungent, so Song Jixin didn't allow his maidservant Zhi Gui to pickle any vegetables. Chopping firewood was also too tiring, so Song Jixin would directly buy bundles upon bundles of firewood to use. He would also buy bags and bags of the best charcoal.

When Chen Ping'an brought the bowl of medicine to Ning Yao, he could surprisingly still hear the intermittent sound of hacking coming from next door. While Ning Yao drank her medicine, Chen Ping'an couldn't help but walk to the courtyard wall and get on his tippy-toes. He discovered that Zhi Gui was hacking at a "person" with a kitchen knife. This was a small wooden figurine.

Chen Ping'an had worked in the kilns for many years, so he had seen many high-quality products and also chopped countless amounts of wood. Thus, he was able to determine the quality of the wood with a single glance. The wood was as smooth and glossy as jade, and this signified that the wooden person was definitely an ancient item. Moreover, the wooden person was covered in red and black dots. However, it had already been hacked into several pieces by Zhi Gui.Updted chapters n nvelbin(.)com

The young girl suddenly turned around. Upon seeing Chen Ping'an, she raised her sweaty and dirty arm to wipe her face before forcing a smile and saying, "Oh, you're back. I wanted to borrow a hatchet from you before, but your guest wasn't willing to open the door for me."

Chen Ping'an faltered upon hearing this, and he said, "I'll get it for you right away. Hatchets are different from kitchen knives, so don't swing it too forcefully at the start. Otherwise, it's very easy to slip and hurt yourself."

Sitting on a small stool, the exhausted young girl waved her hand. "Alright, alright. Now hurry up and get the hatchet for me."

When Chen Ping'an returned with the hatchet, Zhi Gui was already standing at the courtyard wall. She smiled and asked, "Do you know what that is?"

Chen Ping'an shook his head and replied, "No."

Zhi Gui didn't tell him the answer. Instead, she sat back down on her small stool and continued to hack at the wooden person.

Chen Ping'an was extremely worried as he looked at her awkward movements and incorrect postures. However, since she didn't ask for help, Chen Ping'an didn't try to offer any uninvited advice either. Turning around, he found that Ning Yao had already left the courtyard. Chen Ping'an recalled something, and quickly entered his house. He then placed something on the table before the young woman in black.

This was a snake gall pebble that was just large enough to wrap one's hand around. It looked like a frozen piece of honey, with its color brilliant and its patterns delicate.

Ning Yao was slightly baffled.

Chen Ping'an smiled and said, "It's a present for you, Ning Yao."

The young woman in black who always carried her saber suddenly asked, "You like this one the most?"

Chen Ping'an was put in a tough spot, and he could only say, "This one... is probably my fourth favorite. I've already put the other three away."

Only after hearing this did Ning Yao accept the pebble. She picked it up with two fingers and held it above her head, causing the rays of sunshine filtering through the window to shine on the pebble.

She raised her head and squinted, carefully examining the delicate patterns inside the pebble.

She continued to look at the pebble.

Chen Pingan continued to look at her.

Deep in the night, a young boy stealthily crept through Clay Vase Alley like a silent and nimble cat. He went into Gu Can's home, and he found the large water vat that was placed in the corner of the courtyard. After squatting down, he found that many of the originally neat and tidily placed snake gall pebbles had already been taken away by someone. It was as if someone had discovered their value before him.

Gu Can was the only weirdo in the small town who liked to collect snake gall pebbles, and no matter how many pebbles he found at a time, he would only take a single one home. He would only keep his favorite one. Thus, after collecting them for a long time, he was only able to gather 50 to 60 snake gall pebbles. He used these pebbles to cover the gaps in the bottom of the water vat.

Chen Ping'an pushed aside the snake gall pebbles that had already lost their luster. When he saw no dig marks on the bottom of the water vat, he finally breathed a sigh of relief.

He started to dig with his hands. When he eventually felt parchment paper, his heart jolted, and his movements became slower and more careful.

In the end, he retrieved the item that was wrapped in the parchment paper. By the looks of it, this was a book.

After hiding it under his clothes, Chen Ping'an scooped the soil back into the water vat. Looking carefully at the remaining snake gall pebbles, he confirmed that they were all "dead". Compared to the pebbles that Chen Ping'an had collected from the creek, they were completely different in terms of both color and pattern. The pebbles that Chen Ping'an had collected were like lively infants full of vitality, while the pebbles sitting around the water vat were like elderly people fast approaching death.

Chen Ping'an pondered for a moment before deciding to leave Clay Vase Alley from the direction of his home.

When he arrived outside Song Jixin's courtyard door, he heard the creak of a door being opened. Chen Ping'an had no option but to knock on his own door and shout, "Ning Yao, have you gone to sleep yet? I came back to get something."

A light quickly lit up in the house, and the young woman in black walked over to open the door for Chen Ping'an.

Next door, Zhi Gui slowly walked out with a thick and yellowing book in her arms. When she arrived in the courtyard, she saw flickering lights and shadows in Chen Ping'an's house, and she couldn't help but shake her head and click her tongue in wonder. It was as if she had caught a couple engaged in an illicit affair.

She skipped and hopped as she walked down Clay Vase Alley by herself.

Her golden eyes with twin pupils appeared especially ice-cold and holy in the dark of the night.

This made the slender and shapely young girl seem like a flood dragon that was swimming through thin cracks in the rock. If she managed to leave the small alley, it was as if she would enter the rivers and transform into a dragon.

Even though Ning Yao allowed Chen Ping'an to enter the courtyard and even the house, her expression was slightly dark as she sat beside the table and leaned against the scabbard of her saber, which she lightly drummed her fingers along.

After confirming that Zhi Gui had entered the alley, Chen Ping'an finally explained with an awkward expression, "I went to Gu Can's house to get something, yet Zhi Gui coincidentally decided to go out just as I was passing by. I was left with no option but to hide here for a while. Ning Yao, please don't misunderstand."

"What thing?" Ning Yao asked.

Chen Ping'an hesitated for a moment before retrieving the book wrapped in parchment paper. "I'm not sure either."

Ning Yao turned around and instructed, "Open it and have a look first. Then you can decide whether you want to tell me or not."

Chen Ping'an nodded and sat down opposite her. He then unwrapped the layers of parchment paper, causing dirt to continuously fall onto the table. In the end, an ancient book appeared before him.

There were only two characters on the cover of the ancient book, and Chen Ping'an only recognized one of them mountain.

He placed the ancient book on the table before rotating it around and pushing it toward Ning Yao. He then asked in curiosity, "Ning Yao, what's this character?"

The young woman turned around and glanced down.

"Shaking," she replied.

Mountain Shaking this was the title of the ancient book.

Chapter end

<<Prev
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Catalogue
Chapter 31: Beating Around the Mountain
Chapter 32: Peach Leaf
Chapter 33: White Dragon Disguising as a Fish
Chapter 34: Gathered Together
Chapter 35: Licorice Root
Chapter 36: Ancient Book
Chapter 37: Fist Technique
Chapter 38: Ninth Tier
Chapter 39: Cursing the Locust Tree
Chapter 40: Returning the Courtesy
Chapter 42: Prodigy
Chapter 43: The Young Boy and the Old Dog
Chapter 44: Coming to Light
Chapter 45: Sunlight
Chapter 46: Skirt Dagger
Chapter 47: Going Alone
Chapter 48: The Hunter and the Hunted
Chapter 49: Porcelain Shard
Chapter 50 (1): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 50 (2): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 51: Confrontation
Chapter 52: Shudder
Chapter 53: Gift
Chapter 54: Facing the Enemy
Chapter 55: Feeling Proud in the Spring Breeze
Chapter 56: Nodding Bodhisattva
Chapter 57: Sword Nurturing Gourd
Chapter 58: Teacher
Chapter 59: Sleep
Chapter 60: There's a Ghost
Chapter 61: Helpless Pawn
Chapter 62: Falling Tree
Chapter 63 (1): So That's How It Is
Chapter 63 (2): So That's How It Is
Chapter 64: The Three Chens
Chapter 65: Jewel
Chapter 66: Looking Up
Chapter 67 (1): Long Journey
Chapter 67 (2): Long Journey
Chapter 68: Spring Under the Heavens
Chapter 69: Night
Chapter 70: Daylight
Chapter 71 (1): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 71 (2): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 72: Black Cloud
Chapter 73: Wooden Figure
Chapter 74: The Fire Dragon Roams the Water
Chapter 75: Mountain Selection
Chapter 76: Back to Back
Chapter 77: Entering the Mountains
Chapter 78: Another Dream
Chapter 79: Spring Welcome Seal
Chapter 80: Leaving the Mountains
Chapter 81: Imperial Preceptor
Chapter 82 (1): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 82 (2): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 83: Dreams
Chapter 84 (1): I Have a Sword
Chapter 84 (2): I Have a Sword
Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 85 (2): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 86 (1): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 86 (2): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 87 (1): Little Teacher
Chapter 87 (2): Little Teacher
Chapter 88: Grand Entrance
Chapter 89: Two Heads
Chapter 90: Heavy Rain
Chapter 91: Jade Hairpin
Chapter 92 (1): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 92 (2): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 93 (1): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 93 (2): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 94: A Feast for the Eyes
Chapter 95: Too Small a Place
Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers
Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain
Chapter 98: The Meddlesome Mountain God
Chapter 99: The Mountain God and the Bamboo Saber
Chapter 100 (1): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 100 (2): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 101: Guard the Mountain
Chapter 102: Soaring White Ray
Chapter 103: Bamboo Building
Chapter 104: Sharing the Spoils
Chapter 105: Rootless Duckweed
Chapter 106: People from All Walks of Life
Chapter 107: Fishing Net
Chapter 108: Spring Hunting
Chapter 109: The Young Boy Has Some Words to Say
Chapter 110: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Chapter 111: Bamboo Hat
Chapter 112: Powerful Individual
Chapter 113: Unparalleled Might
Chapter 114: Seeing A'Liang Again
Chapter 115: There's an Old Scholar In the World (1)
Chapter 116: There's an Old Scholar In the World (2)
Chapter 117 (1): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 118 (1): There's Righteousness In The World
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