Chapter 4: Good and Evil
Shen Qingxuan had once carefully weighed in his heart. This snake could not only pull the dying him back to the world of the living, presumably, he could also make him walk, jump and speak just like any ordinary person as if it was not of difficulties.
It was just that these words were hard to speak about.
To be blunt, Shen Qingxuan splashed a cup of hot tea on him without a good cause. Although he walked around the edge of life and death, ultimately, he still survived. Despite the price of living was to shield this snake from tribulation – who made him have a prosperous and rich fate. It was not that Shen Qingxuan did not believe the other party’s statement, it was just hard to believe it entirely.
At this point, the trade of this person and this snake could be still regarded as impartial.
He splashed a cup of hot tea on him and it bit him, this was more than natural; it saved his life and he would protect it from tribulation was an even more equitable transaction.
It was a sentence of joke to ask for a return gift just now. Yet he had no choice but to admit that his words did carry some greedy thoughts, that he wanted to demand even more from this snake.
It was human nature to put oneself first when something happened. After all, Shen Qingxuan was someone who had studied. When these words were written out, although he could hardly restrain his anticipation, he was also very much ashamed.
Unexpectedly, this demon was so straightforward that he had already given assent to his heart’s wishes without even having him to speak out.
Shen Qingxuan lowered his head and remained motionless.
The black and white characters in front of him had yet to dry from the ink.
In the room where the air was circulating, there was nothing else but the breathing of Shen Qingxuan.
Shen Qingxuan was unable to respond. He dared not even took another look at the black and white paper on the table. He merely hung his head down while his face abruptly turned green, then pale and finally red.
Even though he was twenty-seven years old, because of his troubled and misfortuned fate, he had much more thoughts and insights than ordinary people. But how could he be compared with the old snake demon who has practiced for nearly a thousand years?
The snake demon, Yimo, remained concealed since the beginning to the end. He did not even make a sound during their meeting. He persisted in talking with him in ink and brush. It was clear like looking at a fire.
Shen Qingxuan was merely a budding small seed, but he had long covered the earth and hid the sky.
The tea was already cooled for a long time.
Shen Qingxuan eventually raised his head and looked at the empty space ahead in silence for a long while before he unhurriedly placed the brush to the paper. In a line, beside the upright handwriting, he wrote: Thank you.
At this moment, he could only write out these two words. Any additional words would not be able to convey his feelings, any more words were merely a burden.
In a little while time, the writing brush that who was manipulated by the person spontaneously entered the writing-brush washer. Shen Qingxuan glanced at it; he was aware that their conversation was over and Yimo was leaving.
Sure enough, in the twinkling of an eye, the fresh scent in the room slowly faded away.
Shen Qingxuan sat alone for a moment before reaching out to pick up the scattered papers on the table, arranging them one by one according to their conversation order. He carefully sorted them again before putting them on his knees, rocking the wooden wheelchair to the bedside and carefully placed the papers into a wooden box.
The apricots in the courtyard bloomed only to wither.
The buds of the peach blossoms emerged one by one, and in just two days, when the amorous sun shone, they impatiently burst forth into blossom.
Shen Qingxuan once again went back under the sunshine and ordered someone to push him. He sat under the peach blossom tree wearing a smile.
The thick overcoat on his body had been put away by someone. He was draped with a cotton-padded cloak and his bottom was wearing a crescent-colored robe.
Nevertheless, the servants were still nervous and were patrolling the courtyard; they were unwilling to let off any nooks of the courtyard, afraid that another snake would appear, and that made them nervous.
Shen Qingxuan was unconcerned about all these, he merely rose his head and looked at the beautiful peach blossoms on the branches. Occasionally when the breeze blew, these light petals would sparsely fell and sprinkled on his face. The smile on his face would deepen a little more.
When the peach blossom was over, those roses that climbed all over the fence would rush to bear buds, as if they were deeply afraid of disappointing this spring. Like before, Shen Qingxuan ordered someone to push his wooden wheelchair and sat next to the roses.
His request frightened his servant and he cried out in fear: “Young Master, you must not, must not!”
Those flowers crawled along the fence as they grew. Their leaves were dense and thick, alike to a green wall that was wrapped up tightly. Heaven knew what damnable things were hidden in it.
But he was just a small servant, he could not do anything regarding his master’s wish. Seeing that his dissuasion was ineffective, he quickly took some realgar powder and sprinkled it around Shen Qingxuan to repel the insects and snakes. Nothing could be done as Shen Qingxuan let his servant stirred the fragrance of the flowers with the realgar odor together and made everything a terrible mess.
The days of Shen Qingxuan whittle away unhurriedly along the alternating flowering season.
Perhaps Yimo had cast some spells while he was clearing up the snake venom for him before. He was much better than before and no longer caught a cold easily.
But he was still in poor health and would feel mentally weary after staying in the courtyard for a period of time.
The servant who served him since childhood had developed a pair of sharp eyes. As long as Shen Qingxuan’s face revealed a little tiredness, the servant would push him back to his room and present ginseng tea.
Once in a while, Yimo would also appear.
As usual, he was still invisible and refused to vocal any words. He would write and talk to him through the paper.
From time to time, Shen Qingxuan would prepare a table of wine and food and placed them in the room. Whenever he showed the intention of an invitation, Yimo would arrive as planned.
Although they had never promised any appointments, they had never made any slips.
It was just that Shen Qingxuan had never seen his face to this day. He was still oblivious to how this reticent and indifferent snake demon looked like.
Sometimes, there would be a malicious guess that the reason he refused to appear was due to having unsightly facial features.
Just as every time this idea pop out, it would be chased away by himself. Yimo was a snake and a demon. Even if he were extremely ugly, he could easily create a good appearance for himself.
After bathing in this night, Shen Qingxuan spread out his brush and paper and sat at his desk waiting.
Over time, he even grasped out some regular pattern of Yimo; every fortnight, he would go to the hot spring at the mountain summit. He would pass by the courtyard when he came down from the hot spring. Therefore, Yimo would come in and sit for a while ——Although Shen Qingxuan had never know whether the reason he came in was to exchange brush and ink with him or not.
Everything was all conjectured by him.
Tonight was another day of the snake demon going to the hot spring and Shen Qingxuan was waiting.
In his spare time, while he was waiting, Shen Qingxuan would take books to read. As everyone all knew in these recent days, their young master had a sudden change of temperament and his preferences had made a great alteration. He abandoned those ancient books and records and instead looked for books focused on evil and strange practices. Reading what unbelievable stories in villages, ghost stories, made up stories and so on, and without exception, stories of fox immortals, ghosts, snakes, insects, tigers and wolves transforming into a human. Furthermore, he even sought those mysterious folklores circulated in the street and read them every day.
This really made one at a loss.
Although Shen Qingxuan disapproved of the stories in those books, he found the vulgar writing interesting, so he read them all the way.
When Yimo arrived, Shen Qingxuan was covering his face with a book as he laughed noiselessly. He was laughing at a limerick in that book; it was written with such crude yet it was unresistable funny.
When the familiar scent filled the atmosphere, Shen Qingxuan just put down the book and wrote: You are here.
A word quickly fell next to the three words: Yes.
Shen Qingxuan wrote again: These few days, I’ve muddle-headedly read some books.
Yimo wrote: I know.
Shen Qingxuan pondered for a moment before he wrote: The story narrated in that book, is it true or false?
Yimo answered: Partly true, partly false.
Shen Qingxuan was stunned and quickly wrote: Sure enough.
In no time, there was an unexpected smile and Shen Qingxuan continued to write while he teased him: There are good and evil demons and spirits in the book. However, I do not know if Young Master Yi is good or evil?
When he finished writing, he felt he was irreverent. Although they were gradually becoming familiar with each other, that was just on the surface. To this day, he still had not met this snake demon. What’s more, the rest of his deeds had never been inquired due to their unfamiliarity.
Even though they exchanged writings quite frequently, they were also some superficial conversation.
Shen Qingxuan’s heart was troubled. He was aware that his inquiry was excessively rude. If Yimo fell out with him and thus leave, he had nothing to say.
This snake demon saved him and promised him. He actually asked the other party: Are you good or evil?
When Shen Qingxuan thought on there was a possibility that he might disappear, momentarily, his heart felt an undistinguishable feeling.
The atmosphere of this lonely mountain in the deep night, where the room shone brightly, where the papers rustled, where the aroma of the ink lingered, where the noiseless sound of cups interlaced, where characters were written down as shallow topics were discussed, perhaps because of his absurd question, they would all disappeared like vapor.
It turned out he was reluctant.
Shen Qingxuan was frozen at the spot. He looked ahead at the place without a shadow and lacked movement.
It might seem long, but it was, in fact, a very short time. He saw that the brush was suspended in the air again, slowly craving out words beside his small characters: To discern good and evil, what is the criterion?
A pause and a little question mark were added.
Shen Qingxuan who faces had lost its color, instantly recovered back. He was glad that Yimo was not angry with himself.
Just that his eyebrows soon wrinkled after looking at the ink marks. He was dumbstruck and unable to form response as he looked at this deemphasized nine words.
After a moment of pondering, Shen Qingxuan wrote: I do not know. How do you discern?
The tip of the brush hesitated for a while and slowly landed down again. This time, there were only seven words written: To treat me well, that is good.
Shen Qingxuan looked at the seven words and was unable to return to his senses for a long time.
After a long silence, Shen Qingxuan took out the brush and wrote again:
What if you first treated me badly, deceived me and harmed me, and then turned your mind back to pitying me and loving me?
Yimo quickly added beside his handwriting:
Deceive and harm her, then pity and love her.
Shen Qingxuan bit his lip and wrote six words “Seeking revenge for the smallest grievance” beside the line. He raised his eyebrows and looked at the blank spot beside him with a faint smile on his face.
This time the paper-brush conversation took longer than before. Shen Qingxuan was not in good spirits, but he was unwilling to part and stayed until midnight before he collected the papers and brush. He fell into a dream the moment he rested his head on the pillow and didn’t wake up until noon the next day.
After drinking some ginseng soup, he recovered his energy and once again became the young master Shen who idled his time away in the sunshine. Looking at the red pomegranate blossoms not far away, his heart was not calm as he imagined the coming year of this season where he and the “good” snake demon who had graced a favor to him, would sit under the red pomegranate blossoms of the trees and had a good time as they talked over wine.
Only one more year.
There was still a year to go before Yimo had to undergo his tribulation.
—— To treat me well, that is good.
Shen Qingxuan’s lips pulled up, showing a clean and neat smile as warm as the spring breeze.
So, those who need to go through tribulations would normally seek for someone noble/prosperous to help them go through the tributaion
“Covered the earth, hidden the sky” is an idiom about being powerful/earthshaking.
“Crescent-Colored” is a light blue colour