TL Note: Gong Hua is male, but everyone thinks he is female so far. So when the narrator speaks, Gong Hua is referred to as “he”, but in dialogue the characters use “she”. Hopefully this won’t confuse any of you. ^^
I have been consistently learning new things. But the more I learn, the more confused I get.
Have I improved or gotten steadily worse?
— Gong Hua
Before he could finish his sentence, Mila raised her voice and hollered, “Cedric! What did you say? Whoever dares to sell Gong Hua will have to fight me until death for it!”
Owen has long been confused by the pile of information thrown at him. It was only when he heard Mila’s shriek did he finally react. Moreover, his reaction compared to Mila’s was a lot more straightforward. He raised his fist, glaring menacingly at Cedric, as if cautioning him – if he dares to say one more word, he would start being violent.
“Don’t get so agitated!” Cedric frantically put up his hands to surrender, shaking his head vigorously as he explained himself. “I was just testing you guys, to see what you guys would do in this predicament. I really don’t have any other intentions!”
Upon hearing his words, Mila was still somewhat aggravated. She didn’t hold much trust in Cedric’s explanations. But, Owen, in contrast, dropped his fist. He bellowed, “You bastard, don’t experiment like that every single time! If not for the fact that you have stayed in this military camp for such a long time and everyone has gotten used to your weird temper, you would have been beaten to death a long time ago!”
Cedric smiled weakly.
“Gong Hua is really from the Leaf Tribe?” Mila questioned with uncertainty. After she found out that Gong Hua wasn’t human, she felt a little confused. This is due to the fact that she has zero understanding of the Leaf Tribe and doesn’t know for sure whether the tribe is good or bad.
Cedric honestly replied, “That is one thing I am sure of. I also have little knowledge of the Leaf Tribe, and I’ve only heard of a few passing rumors. So, it’s up to you to believe what Gong Hua says.”
“Of course I believe her!” Owen immediately roared in response.
This time, it was Mila who was hesitating, and she eventually couldn’t help but murmur softly, “Leaf… one person from the Leaf Tribe can obliterate an entire town on their own?”
“If that was possible, I would have killed her long ago,” Cedric put his point across bluntly.
Mila widened her eyes, whilst Cedric went quiet and did not offer any further explanations.
Owen quickly tugged at Mila and whispered in her ear, “Cedric’s entire family, including his parents and sister, died in that town. If Cas had not whined to the military group about coming here for an inspection, he would also have died there! During the past month or so, these two brothers are not having it easy. That’s why I’m taking this chance to persuade Cedric to bring Cas out for a breath of fresh air.”
Mila nodded her head, and even though she tried her best to suppress it, she could not help but show a sorrowful expression.
Cedric didn’t seem to want to bring up his family matters. He shifted the topic of conversation back to Gong Hua, “If she’s from the Leaf Tribe, then it’s even more impossible for her to be the murderer. The Leaf Tribe is well known for their altruistic nature. Even though they are born gifted and could easily become Spirit Charmers, they couldn’t possibly be this powerful…… To tell you the truth, I have no idea how anything could be this powerful.”
His words seemed to put Mila’s heart at ease. She completely trusts Gong Hua, so Gong Hua must be of the Leaf Tribe. Moreover, Cedric had mentioned that the Leaf Tribe is a benevolent species. As long as Gong Hua was kind, it didn’t matter whether she was human or something else.
Owen glanced further down and could not help but point out, “Let’s go back quickly! Your Cas is full of odd tricks and I don’t know how he’ll pester Gong Hua.”
Cedric taunted him, “Oh, how caring you are towards your dear daughter! Relax, Cas is still young; there’s nothing much he can do towards Gong Hua.”
“What nonsense are you talking about?” Once Owen finished reprimanding Cedric, he immediately spun around, walking briskly as he lashed out, “I’m not wasting my saliva on you anymore. I’ll go take a look at those two brats. There’re no adults around and it would be disastrous if they got out of hand!”
Cedric and Mila broke into smiles, but the moment Owen turned around, Cedric whispered to Mila in a low voice, “If you guys are already acting like this, will you be able to leave Gong Hua behind in a city or village when the time comes?”
Mila smiled and answered, “I just can’t bear to do it. It’ll be fine to leave her in the army. Gong Hua is no longer a child, and she is a fast learner, so she’ll be able to help out with a lot of stuff.”
Cedric shook his head in exasperation, “You like that kid that much? She doesn’t look that special. Her looks are delicate, yet she can’t be considered beautiful. Her appearance just seems to stray a little from the legends that speak of the Leaf Tribe.”
Mila chuckled, “Once you get along with her, you’ll definitely like that child.”
Cedric didn’t think along those same lines. For him, the issue of ‘liking her’ isn’t important now. What’s vital is to source out the murderer who has decimated his town and make him pay; an eye for an eye!
As the adults left, Cas clutched Gong Hua’s hand and discovered that the other party’s hands were smooth and exquisite, wonderful to touch. The people around him, even the girls, never had hands so delicate. So he couldn’t help but stroke them a few more times like a pervert. Yet the moments he raised his head, he saw Gong Hua staring at his hands intensely.
Cas’ face reddened and he quickly used words to divert the other party’s attention. “Jie jie, how old are you this year?”
Gong Hua slightly lowered her head to face Cas, as Cas was shorter than her by half a head. She then replied, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Cas was dumbfounded and retorted suspiciously, “Why don’t you know? How long you’ve been born is how old you are!”
“I’ve always been sitting under the tree. I don’t know how long I’ve sat there, and how old I am.”
“You don’t know how long you’ve sat under the tree?” Cas got even more mystified. “How long can you sit under a tree? You mean, you lived under a tree?”
Gong Hua pondered it. Living under a tree seems to be right, so she nodded her head.
“Then, you must be good at climbing trees!” Cas came to his own conclusion, and jumped about ecstatically, “I also love climbing trees. Let’s climb trees together later, shall we?”
“Why should we climb trees?” Gong Hua didn’t quite understand.
Cas froze. Having climbed trees for so long, he has never really thought of the reason he did that. He contemplated it, and forcefully came up with an answer, “Because it’s fun?”
“So climbing trees is a form of playing?” Gong Hua was eager to know what the word ‘play’ meant.
“Okay.” Gong Hua nodded her head.
“Climbing trees is good.”
Cas’s eyes lit up and almost glowed at Gong Hua’s answer. Ever since he joined the military, he has never met people close to his age. Even though Gong Hua looked much older than him and is a girl, he still felt like he had gained a playmate. He abruptly yelled ecstatically, “Then, let’s compete in climbing trees later!”
“What’s ‘compete’?” The word ‘compete’ added in front of ‘climbing trees’ made Gong Hua perplexed once more.
“We use it to see who can climb faster! The faster one wins!”
“Jie jie, you really have a lot of questions!”
Gong Hua nodded her head and admitted, “I do have a lot of problems.”
Cas suddenly burst out laughing and roared out, “Who would say that she has a lot of problems. The meaning changes when it’s phrased like that!”
“What does it mean?”
Rarely getting the opportunity to become a teacher, Cas acted all high and mighty as a senior would and said, “That means you have a lot of problems!”
Doesn’t that mean the same thing? Gong Hua was completely confused.
Luckily, Owen and the others returned then. Owen yelled out before he even came into proximity, “Cas, did you bully Gong Hua?”
“I didn’t!” Cas raised his voice even more. “I even answered many of her questions! You’re bullying me!”
“I’m sure I didn’t accuse you wrongly. You’re a brat full of weird ideas. You must have bullied Gong Hua!” Owen grappled Cas’ head and messed up his hair fiercely, shouting, “You little pervert, speak up! Did you take advantage of her?”
As he had indeed secretly touched her hands, Cas was speechless, feeling a little guilt-ridden.
“…What have you done?” Owen’s voice resonated loudly. He said it for the sake of it, but he never expected Cas to have actually done something.
Not only could Cas not answer, his face also turned beet red.
Upon seeing his expression, Owen’s jaw was close to dropping off. He stuttered, “You, you little pervert…”
Cedric never expected to run into this kind of problem upon his return. He had no idea what to do and could only glare at Cas.
As for Mila, she didn’t believe Cas would do anything outrageous. Hence, she directly asked Gong Hua, “Did Cas touch you?”
Gong Hua nodded, “He touched my hands.”
In order to clear the doubts those two men were having towards a boy, Mila had to ask a little more specifically, “Did he only touch your hands? What about other areas? Or did he say anything to you?”
Gong Hua nodded her head again and spoke, “He said climbing trees is playing and wanted to compete in climbing trees.”
After hearing what Gong Hua had to say, Mila spun around. She spread her hands out as she wore an amused smile on her face. The latter subsequently turned towards Cas and bellowed, “You sneaky little brat, I thought you really did something. Turns out it was only touching hands. Why the hell did your face redden like that? You’ve probably held hands with countless girls most of the time, haven’t you?”
Holding and touching are two different things! Cas retorted in his heart, yet he did not have the courage to say it out and risk getting reprimanded. Moreover, his own brother Cedric was still shooting him a piercing gaze with suspicion written all over his face.
“Enough, the both of you should stop bullying Cas!” Mila spoke, half amused, yet a little peeved. “Gong Hua has great strength and she’s taller than Cas by half a head! There’s no way Cas could mistreat her.”
Owen abruptly blared, “Mila, it’s not like you don’t know this. Gong Hua is just like a child! She doesn’t know anything. Should Cas do anything to her, she would not retaliate!”
Cedric dissented, “What exactly do you think my brother is, an incorrigible rascal? He’s only twelve! “What” can he do?”
“Who knows?” Owen snapped back, relentlessly.
The two men were intransigent, leaving no room for compromise. Watching from the side, Mila started to feel distressed, and immediately instructed Gong Hua, “Gong Hua, you must never allow men to touch you freely! Even if they’re slightly younger than you.”
“We can’t touch hands?” Gong Hua turned towards Cas.
Mila pondered it and said, “Holding hands is fine, but touching isn’t.” She knew Gong Hua wouldn’t understand the difference between holding and touching, so she grasped Gong Hua’s hands to demonstrate it.
Upon seeing his predicament, Cas’ face instantly caved in. He made eyes at Gong Hua, trying to signal her vigorously. It was a pity Gong Hua didn’t understand it. She then spoke frankly, “Cas just touched my hands.”
Mila froze and questioned, “Touch? Not hold hands?”
Gong Hua shook his head and affirmed while stroking Mila’s hand, “Touch.”
At Gong Hua’s words, the two men, who had been bickering earlier, became of one mind. They both shot Cas a merciless glare, while the latter got intimidated by the stares of the three adults and cried out, “That’s because Gong Hua’s hands are smooth and pleasing to touch. I couldn’t help but stroke a few times. That’s all!”
“Who gave you the permission to touch her? You perverted little rascal, I’ll definitely slaughter you today!”
“Don’t! I didn’t do it on purpose!” Cas abruptly darted, trying to escape an incoming death.
Owen bellowed and gave chase after the little pervert. It was a rare case for Cedric to sit by and refuse to help his brother. He merely shouted at him, infuriated, “Cas, you’re grounded!”
Watching from the side, Gong Hua felt bemused and questioned, “What’s the meaning of ‘slaughter’?”
Mila hesitated but continued to explain, “That means taking another person’s life.”
Gong Hua asked again, “Owen wants to take Cas’ life? But, we’re going to play. We can’t play when he has no life.”
Mila immediately explained, “He’s just joking! I’ve explained to you the meaning of joking, haven’t I?”
Gong Hua nodded his head. It meant interesting words were spoken for the fun for it and would not actually be executed. At the time, he hadn’t understood what ‘interesting’ meant. But now, looking at how Owen ran after Cas frenetically and the wailing expression on Cas’ face as he ran for his life…… Gong Hua seemed to gradually understand what ‘interesting’ meant.
Owen grabbed Cas’ head, grinding his fist on his skull, as the latter howled in pain. It was then that Gong Hua finally smiled, and laughter even erupted. Her laughs invigorated Owen, and he ground his fist with even more alacrity.
Upon hearing Gong Hua’s laughter, Mila, for once, was thankful for Owen’s childish temper and immature ways. She was close to calling out to root for Owen, but at the sight of Cas’ pitiful expression, she decided to simply smile and look on.
The group walked for an entire morning, before reaching the lake. The lake had a large surface area and in the farther reaches, a fog permeated its surface. With a gaze at it, one would find it impossible to see where the lake ended.
The lake is enveloped by forests on all four sides, suffusing the lake water with a light velvet green, where a reflection of the high mountains in the far ends could be seen. A few young fauna drank by the lake, seemingly unafraid of humans. They merely raised their heads, peering at them inquisitively.
As they rested their eyes on the resplendent scenery before them, the crowd could not help but gasp out in awe.
Gong Hua was the only person there who didn’t feel particularly different. Having lived most of his life under the Tree, Gong Hua found any scenery to be worth marveling at, not just the lake before him.
“What a beautiful lake!” With her gaze fixated on the sights before her, Mila asked, “Does this lake have a name?”
Cedric nodded and spoke, “The residents nearby call it the Moon Lake. It’s said that the lake will reflect a full moon at night.”
“But we can’t stay until the night.” Owen immediately chimed in. “There are too many beasts in this area, it’s too dangerous at night.”
“Such a pity……” Even though Mila said that, she would probably be the first one to object should they really stay for the night. For her, ensuring the two children’s safety preceded any beautiful scenery.
“We can go swimming!” Cas whooped ecstatically.
For a ten-year old child, swimming was more enticing than any dazzling landscape.
“I don’t allow it!” Owen immediately opposed to the idea.
Cas was surprised. Crumpling his face, he yelled indignantly, “Why?”
Cedric elucidated coldly, “This is one of the deeper regions of the forest, who knows what kind of animals there are in this lake. If you want to be eaten, then go ahead.”
Cas suckered his lips into a pout.
Just then, Gong Hua sprinted to the lake, and before anyone could stop him, he leapt into the water.
Even though the weather was warm, bordering on hot, the water is freezing cold. Gong Hua loved it immensely. It has been ages since he drank such fresh, delicious water.
Extremely dissatisfied, Cas pointed towards Gong Hua, raising his voice in protest, “Why can Gong Hua go in, while I can’t!”
Owen was speechless. Cedric glowered at his brother, “That’s because she’s of the Leaf Tribe, a child of the forest. But you’re not!”
Hearing his brother scold him, tears started to well up in Cas’ eyes.
At this, Mila pondered, and yelled to Gong Hua, who was still in the lake, “Gong Hua, can Cas come down to play with you? Will you be able to protect him?”
Doesn’t ‘play’ refer to climbing trees? Gong Hua was confused; he only came down to have his fill of fresh water. But he did understand it when Mila told him those words about protecting Cas. That was because flowers are born solely for the purpose of protecting the Leaf Tribe.
‘Protect’ is an instinct he didn’t need to learn. It’s just meant that his objects of protection included not only the Leaf Tribe, but also Owen and Mila. If so, another Cas wouldn’t hurt. So, he nodded his head in agreement.
Cas was close to leaping into the water immediately, but he still casted a hesitant look at his brother. It was only when Cedric nodded his head that he cheered loudly, “Hooray!” Without a moment’s hesitation, he stripped down to his underwear and ran to the lake in one breath, diving straight in. Massive sprays of water erupted from the surface, splashing Gong Hua’s entire face.
Cas could not get enough of it. He flashed a mischievous smile, and he directed waves of water towards Gong Hua with both his hands, splashing her.
“Cas! Stop fooling around……”
Staring down at the deep, unending depths of the lake, Cedric was extremely uneasy. He was close to calling his brother to get out of the lake but was halted by Mila. She smiled and said, “It’s okay, the kids are just having fun. Let them play to their hearts’ content.”
Owen also patted his shoulders and persuaded him, “Relax a little, we’re all here. It’ll be fine.”
“I just……” Cedric didn’t know how to get his point across and fell silent before he uttered solemnly, “Cas is all I have left.”
Owen took a deep breath and said, “You are also the only family Cas has left. Don’t always put on such a long face, and there’s no need to keep forcing him to practice his sword and Spiritual Vision.”
Cedric retorted angrily, “It’s most effective to practice Spiritual Vision during childhood. If he missed this opportunity, the chances of mastering it in future would be very low!”
Owen hurried on to explain, “I’m not telling you to not let him practice; I’m just saying that he needs rest, adequate rest! Oh right, I told you to carry along a map to explain to Gong Hua some basic common knowledge. Did you bring it?”
In the end, Owen thought it simpler to just shift the topic of conversation. He knows that Cedric’s family was pretty much wiped out. With his strong mindset for vengeance, it would be impossible to persuade him at the moment. There was no need to bicker with him in front of the kids.
It was known that he had spent considerable effort and even roped in his teammates to take turns convincing Cedric before Cedric finally agreed to bring Cas out for an outing. That is why he must not let this break end in hostility.
Cedric nodded his head and said, “I brought the map. I intend to explain this to Cas as well, so it’ll be easier to find the culprit later. From what I can see, the culprit is already out of this area.”
At this time, Mila’s furious yell travelled from not too far away, “You two, don’t just slack there, bring those items you’re holding and come here! Then, go and start the fire, gather firewood, and catch fish…… There’re so many things to do. Why aren’t you guys getting on with it?”
Owen pulled at Cedric and hollered, “Come on!”
The two children in the lake splashed each other, swam, and played to their hearts’ content. It was only at Mila’s command that they came ashore.
Mila took a couple towels, passing one to Cas, while she tried to dry Gong Hua’s hair. She recalled that Gong Hua’s hair was very sensitive, so she frantically stuffed the towel on top of her hands.
However, the Gong Hua was confused and questioned, “What’s the towel for?”
“It’s more comfortable if your hair is dry.”
Gong Hua shook his head and said, “It’s more comfortable when it’s wet.”
“Really? You like water? But you don’t seem to like bathing much but… cold water? You like cold water?” Halting her words in mid-sentence, Mila finally came to a realization.
Gong Hua nodded his head.
Mila understood. She shook her head and said, “Seriously, you could have just told me you like cold water! Why didn’t you mention it? I could have even saved the effort of heating the water! Then, just wipe yourself up slightly at the very least! If not, you’ll be dripping wet and it wouldn’t be good if the water drips onto the food.”
Gong Hua nodded. As Gong Hua continued drying himself, Cas had already tossed his towel aside. He ran to Owen’s side, exclaiming, “Smells good!”
Owen swelled with pride as he declared, “Of course, that’s because it’s Owen’s specialty roasted meat!”
“Isn’t this just normal meat?” Cedric grumbled. “And I roasted it, you’re merely responsible for starting the fire.”
“It takes skills to start a fire……”
Mila interrupted the conversation. “Is the meat ready? If it’s cooked, just put it on bread and let the kids have it first! They’ve been playing around for so long. They must be hungry.”
Subsequently, Gong Hua and Cas were each handed a piece of bread filled with meat. But, Gong Hua didn’t eat it and instead fell into thought. If she can tell the others that she doesn’t like hot water, then can she mention her dislikes for food as well?
Cas sputtered loudly while in the midst of chomping down his food, “Delicious! This is really delicious!”
At the sight of Cas, Mila and Owen broke into wide grins. Only Cedric shook his head at his own brother.
Upon seeing that Gong Hua hadn’t touched her food, Mila asked worriedly, “Gong Hua, aren’t you eating? Is it not to your liking?”
Seeing Mila and Owen’s smiles, Gong Hua took a bite without thinking and said, “Delicious…” It was only after Gong Hua finished saying it that he froze. He obviously didn’t find the meat delicious, yet he nodded his head…… why did he nod?
“Gong Hua?” Mila pulled the towel over and wiped Gong Hua’s neck as she beamed a smile, “Seriously, what’s on your mind? The gravy has already trickled down your neck.”
Gazing at Mila’s smile, Gong Hua suddenly felt that the bread truly was delicious. As long Mila and Owen smiled, anything would be delectable.
After the crowd ate to their fullest, Owen casted Cedric a sideways glance while Cedric carefully extracted a piece of hide and unveiled it on his thigh. The front side of the hide was composed of intricate designs and looked like a map.
Gong Hua asked curiously, “What is this?”
Cedric’s original motive was to explain anyways, so he did. “This is a map of Sisha. Sisha has three continents – Xi Zong, Xia Sha, and Jun De. Look, these two continents that only have a few regions connecting them, they’re Xi Zong and Xia Sha. Those two continents are separated by a gulf, named the Gulf of Zhan. To the south of Xi Zong and Xia Sha is the Sisha Sea, and below it is the Continent of Jun De.
Continent of Jun De…… Gong Hua froze, the name sounded rather familiar.
Cedric didn’t notice Gong Hua’s strange response and merely continued. “The continent we are on now is the Continent of Xi Zong. Our current position is on the middle right of the continent, which is also the end of the Xi Yang Mountains, near the centre of the Country of Zhan Yan. We’ll just have to cross the Xi Yang Mountains to get to the Country of Da Shi, which is just beside us.”
Even though Cedric said many things, Gong Hua could not understand a word of it. He asked, “What is Sisha?”
Upon hearing Gong Hua’s words, the group grew silent. Only Cas remarked, “That’s impossible, you don’t even know what Sisha is? Sisha is, is…… is here! Everything is in Sisha!”
Gong Hua stared at Cas, perplexed.
Cedric elucidated further, “Sisha is originally a word for the creation of spirits. Afterwards, it was used to refer to all matter in this world. No matter if it’s us, the earth we step on, or the sky, everything integrated as one is Sisha. Sisha is the whole of creation in this world.”
Next: Chapter 3: Spirits, Sisha, Humans, Flower… All creations
Previous: Chapter 1: Flower, Gonghua… Gonghua
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