Agarwood like Crumbs (沉香如屑) Novel Translations

Chapter 22: The Journey to the Southwest

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Yan Dan inhaled her steamed buns and looked at Liu Weiyang, who was sitting in silence across from her. In her mind, there are two types of people who are the most unsuitable for traveling: the mute and the gentleman. A mute person can’t speak and only eats, which is boring, while a gentleman behaves well but can’t do any bad things, which is even more boring. She didn’t know if Liu Weiyang could be considered a gentleman, but he was definitely a mute.

On that day, she and Tang Zhou left Lingxiao Taoist Temple, returned to Tang Zhou’s home to pack a couple of things, and then left Xiangdu City. It was late spring at this time, and there were only a few bits of pink left on the branches. Liu Weiyang was standing under the peach tree, looking at the blossoms calmly. Yan Dan didn’t know what Tang Zhou said to him. 

In short, a demon, a celestial master, and an expert of unknown age are going to the southwest together.

This journey has been very smooth, which disappointed yanDan because it deprived her of a lot of fun. The closer they were to Zhu Cui Mountain, where the Yi people lived, the quieter Liu Weiyang became. When they stopped to rest, he would sometimes look straight at the sky. When others talked to him, at most he would hum noncommittally, and the others weren’t sure if he heard it or not.

Yan Dan was too idle, so he could only guess what Liu Weiyang was thinking. A mortal, once he thinks of some nasty things, even if he puts on a righteous and awe-inspiring expression, his eyes will still show a bit of despicableness; if he thinks of murder, arson, and all evil, he will gnash his teeth and clench his fists. However, Liu Weiyang’s eyes are clear and his expression is indifferent. 

Yan Dan finished biting a steamed bun and began to slowly add firewood to the fire. Suddenly, she had an idea and pointed to the Zhu Cui Mountain in front of them, and recited a few lines from a poem.

Tang Zhou choked on his steamed buns and coughed a few times before he said, “Why did you suddenly start chanting and composing poems?” This flower demon was indeed so different from the ones he’d met before. He turned his head to look in the direction Yan Dan pointed and saw that Zhu Cui Mountain was high enough to support the moon, the fog was heavy, and a heavy wind blew threw it. 

After a while, Yan Dan gave up talking and laid down on the hay to get a good sleep. She slept very lightly, so she would wake even if she heard the smallest noise. 

A couple of hours passed before she suddenly heard a slight noise. When she opened her eyes, she saw Liu Weiyang standing up slowly. Something seemed to flash in the moonlight. Yan Dan lay still, only to see Liu Weiyang walking slowly to Tang Zhou’s side, looking at him for a while, then turning around and walking towards her, doing the same thing.

She thought that this was a bit strange, so she closed her eyes and breathed a long and deep breath, pretending to be asleep. She felt that the other party looked at her quietly for a while, and then slowly walked into the distance. Yan Dan got up lightly and followed him carefully. 

He walked under the locust tree, slightly patting away the dust on its trunk. 

From Yan Dan’s point of view, Liu Weiyang is a person who is never sloppy and does not do pointless things. Every word and every action of his is unlikely to be meaningless. So she was at a loss when she saw Liu Weiyang slowly lean against the tree trunk and brought the thing in his hand to the corner of his mouth. 

Through the silver-white moonlight, Yan Dan could see it clearly: what he was holding was just a jade flute and the melody that flew out of the flute was light and refreshing. It turned out to be just a flute, not a weapon, so she was nervous for nothing. 

Yan Dan slowly stepped back and fell back on the haystack. After a while, Liu Weiyang gently walked back to the fire and sat down again. Yan Dan thought in a daze that this time she was really too suspicious.

Early the next morning, they entered Zhu Cui Mountain. Who would’ve thought that the path was so slippery that they could barely make it up a couple of steps?

Tang Zhou said, “It seems that this mountain road is not very easy to walk, I’m afraid I have to ask a local person to lead the way.” Liu Weiyang didn’t seem like he cared while Yan Dan rolled her eyes and said with a smile, “I suddenly thought of a story.”

Tang Zhou glanced at her sideways, and smiled slightly: “What’s the story?”

After telling a long story about a prime minister and a king, Tang Zhou looked annoyed. But the main point of telling the story was because she wanted such an allusion to insult Liu Weiyang. But Liu Weiyang looked away as if he didn’t even hear it.

Yan Dan felt bored and she stopped talking.

When they walked to a village entrance outside the mountain, Tang Zhou whispered: “You really like to talk to Brother Liu.”

Yan Dan frowned, thought for a while, then smiled brightly: “Are you jealous?”

Tang Zhou said without hesitation, “No.”

Yan Dan sighed faintly: “If you admit it, it’s no big deal, and I won’t make fun of you.”

 “I’m not jealous.”

As he was talking, he saw two local people walking towards him, wearing coarse clothes, one tall and the other short. They walked up to the three of them and said, “Did you have trouble with Chu Cui Shan. The weather is very foggy so it is easy to get lost without local people.”

Tang Zhou nodded and listened to the tall local man continued, “The price is naturally easy to negotiate.”

Tang Zhou took out a small piece of silver and said lightly, “We will go into the mountains in two hours at most. “

The man took the money, weighed it a few times, and said with a smile, “You don’t have to worry, Young Master, we can set off in half an hour, and it’s guaranteed to be safe!” After that, he pulled the short local man away and muttered something the others couldn’t hear.

Liu Weiyang said in a low voice, “These two have a stench on their bodies.”

Yan Dan replied, “I can see their eyes twinkling, and they are much too attentive. I’m afraid there is something weird in them. This journey is really interesting.”

“Even if there is something weird, it won’t be too difficult to deal with.” Tang Zhou looked at the bag, “There’s not much dry food left, and I don’t know where to find it when we enter the mountain. Let’s stock up on some before we leave.”

Liu Weiyang said indifferently: “Since they dare to bring people in, there must be a problem with them. In short, just be more careful.”

Yan Dan was horrified: “Is the stench you mentioned…”

Liu Weiyang glanced at her noncommittally and was silent again.

Tang Zhou was slightly surprised that YanDan could be hesitant with her words. She only said half a sentence, so Tang Zhou was curious and asked, “What’s wrong with the stench?”

Yan Dan’s expression was complicated, “I might be wrong. It’s better if you don’t know. I’m afraid it will make you unable to eat for several days.”

Tang Zhou saw that she didn’t want to say anything, so he didn’t force it. The three of them went to the village to buy some dry steamed buns and then drank the well water. When they returned to the village, they saw the two locals carrying hemp rope and ax on their backs, waiting for them with his pathfinder stick.

Zhu Cuishan was thick with fog, and it was near impossible to see more than ten feet ahead of them. Yan Dan quietly looked at the two local people diagonally ahead who were exploring the road with a cane.

The short local man turned his head and grinned at her, showing his blackened teeth, “Girly, you have to follow closely. There are giant pythons in the mountains, and they specialize in eating little girls with thin skin and tender meat.”

Yan Dan immediately put on a look of fear, “There are giant pythons in this mountain?”

“This boa constrictor has the thickness of an arm and is so long.” The man compared it with his hands, “When it opens its mouth wide, it can swallow the whole person.”

“Enough, don’t go on!” The taller local man interrupted him immediately and said with a smile, “That’s just a rumor from our local area so don’t be afraid, girlie. If we really meet a big python, the two of us will chop it to death.” Saying that he patted the ax wrapped around the coil of hemp rope on his back.

Yan Dan smiled with bright eyes and teeth, and said softly, “Then I can rest assured.”

After walking for a while in the white fog, she casually looked around, but then realized that Liu Weiyang, who was walking behind her, had suddenly disappeared. She knew that with Liu Weiyang’s skills, it would not be a big problem even if he was alone. However, she always thought that he would be going up the mountain with them. After all, people’s hearts are unpredictable, so it is impossible to determine whether he is an enemy or a friend.

She was thinking about whether to tell Tang Zhou about this when she inadvertently caught a glimpse of a figure out of the corner of her eye. When she looked back, Liu Weiyang had a calm expression and was walking behind her again.

Yan Dan rubbed her eyes and wondered: Could it be that she saw it wrong just now? It stands to reason that this fog is misty, and it is not surprising that she thought she saw something. She looked back frequently at him, and after many times this happening, Liu Weiyang asked, “What?”

“Did you see anything strange just now?” Yan Dan asked tentatively.

Liu Weiyang shook his head, but the short local man turned his head and said, “It’s foggy here, and the mountain road is difficult to walk, so it’s difficult to see things wrong.”

Yan Dan really wanted to take care of that talkative mortal, but knowing that he still had to lead the way, she had to hold back. This talkative mortal still didn’t know who she was and even dared to say that she was timid, which was really outrageous.

They walked in the mountains for a long time, but there was still a vast expanse of white fog in front of them.

Tang Zhou couldn’t help but ask, “How long will it take to go?” 

The tall man kept saying, “It’s getting to be soon, when you reach the mountain pass, you can walk up the mountain road and you will be able to climb over the hill.” 

Holding a knife, he slashed on a tree beside him, “I’ll make a mark all the way so that we won’t get lost.” He was about to slash down the bark with the knife, when, suddenly the short man shout: “This- this place we were just at!”

The taller man immediately reprimanded: “What nonsense are you talking about, don’t scare yourself! We’ve already gone up this mountain seventeen to eighteen times, but this has never happened.”

“But look at the mark on the bark, isn’t it the one you drew before?”

That man’s face suddenly turned pale, and he murmured, “How could this happen? This has never happened before, could it be, could it be… a ghost…”

Yan Dan lowered her body and looked at the marks on the tree trunks, and then carefully looked at the surrounding vegetation. She had indeed been here before. But if it was a ghost, she couldn’t feel its spiritual energy at all.

Tang Zhou told the guides to look for another way, so they did. 

As Yan Dan walked, she quietly looked around. In the corner of her vision, she could only see that Liu Weiyang would use his toes to remove a few stones from the ground every few steps. At first, she thought it was because of his cautious nature and that he was making some marks. But after a while, she started to feel that something was wrong. The marking should be easy to identify, but the stones he arranged were messy and irregular as if he was just trying to kick the stones away.

After walking in the white fog for about half an hour, the short local man turned his head excitedly and pointed to the front: “This is the mountain pass, it seems that I just went in the wrong direction and made a big circle just now.”

Yan Dan glanced at Liu Weiyang quietly and saw that he was not looking sideways, his eyes were calm. He didn’t even seem like he was worried or scared.

When she thought about it carefully, she felt that there was something strange about it: these two locals said that they had walked seventeen or eight times in the mountains. There was no reason for them to identify the wrong direction unless they were trying to deceive someone. However, looking at their pale and suspicious appearance just now, if they pretended to be all, it would be too simple. And when she thought about it, this approach is really too redundant.

Since it wasn’t that way, then there is another reason. And this reason is probably Liu Weiyang. She saw Liu Weiyang disappear with her own eyes, but the next moment she saw him appear out of thin air. Was it a problem with her eyes? If not, how long has he been gone and what is he doing? Also, why did Liu Weiyang move those stones away intentionally or unintentionally?

She suddenly remembered one night long ago in the Yelan Mountains. The weather was sultry that night, and she couldn’t sleep, so she wanted to go to the lake to breathe. Coincidentally, Yu Mo didn’t sleep either, so he was standing by the lakeside. As Yan Dan approached, he saw that the ground was full of small pebbles, dotted all over the place. The position of each pebble seemed to be unremarkable, but Yu Mo thought it looks suspicious. Yu Mo turned his head to look at her, then looked down at the ground again. Yan Dan was very confused. She wanted to look closer, but Yu Mo grabbed her hand and said, “These stones are arranged according to Fuxi Bagua formation. Once you’re in it you can’t get out”

Yan Dan didn’t believe it so she obviously walked in. When she walked in, the scene in front of her suddenly changed. The surroundings were full of a murderous aura, and the environment kept spinning in the same place no matter what. Fortunately, Yu Mo finally pulled her out. For half a year after that, she was cautious around Yu Mo, for fear that she might provoke the mountain master and he would throw her into the stone formation.

If the reason why they were walking in circles just now was because they walked into a Fuxi Bagua formation, then who was the person who set up the formation? If Liu Weiyang noticed that someone had set up a formation to trap them, why didn’t he mention it? She wanted to ask him directly, but suddenly she thought that since he didn’t say it, he probably has a reason for it. If Liu Weiyang had other schemes, she would alert him of her suspicions early on; if he had good intentions, her question would seem rude.

Yan Dan looked forward and through the light drizzle fluttering in the mist, there was a shallow figure coming from the mist. The man lifted the hem of his clothes with one hand, his face was blurred, every step seemed to be walking on the clouds, and his body was light and elegant. With each step, there was such an indescribable breath of fresh air.

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