Plundering the Dao of the Immortal Journey Chapter 2
- Snail Village
The night sky was calm and clear of clouds. Moonlight passed through the gaps between the branches of the trees, illuminating the ground.
Zhang Dashan stood atop the lookout post surrounded by fences made of thorn bushes and mud walls. The fences stretched across the entire parameter of the city—forming the village's basic line of defence. He wore nothing but a thin singlet, with a shortbow slung across his back.
Although spring had just begun, the cold still pierced his bones. Zhang Dashan looked up to the sky and muttered disappointedly, "It looks like the rain will continue eluding us tomorrow—what will become of the crops?"
"To make matters worse, those Black Wind Brigands still insists on taxes." Zhang Dashan thought aloud, anxiety written on his face.
The coming of spring brought no rain, and the crops were on the brink of withering, compounded by Black Wind gang's extortion—what an awful situation this was!
Zhang Dashan was drowning in worry, when he suddenly retrieved the bow from his back. He pricked his ears, listening intently, eyes shining with vigilance.
In that instant, he heard horses fast approaching.
Zhang Dashan peered into the distance and exhaled cold air, his heart thumping in nervous anticipation. Without any hesitation, he hurriedly sounded the bell.
"Not good, not good! The bandits from Black Wind Ridge are approaching the village!"
The tolling of the bell shattered the tranquility of the night; it was akin to dropping a bowl's worth of water into a pan of hot oil. Footsteps were heard, and lights came on—the villagers were roused with fear.
News of the approaching bandits spread to every corner of the village like wildfire. The old, the weak, women, and children started panicking and worrying, "These bandits came for their taxes only a few months ago, and now they're here again?" women muttered angrily under their breaths as they hurried off.
"Hide the money! Hide the women!"
The women of the village hurriedly took their belongings away and instructed their own daughters to start hiding. The young men of the village, however, gathered around the village entrance, with machetes in hand.
Apart from the common villagers, several other men under the command of the chieftain made their way towards the entrance as well. Each of them had well-built and strong bodies. Instead of machetes, they armed themselves with swords and hunting bows.
"Chief! Over there!" Zhang Dashan pointed, and several people looked toward the direction of the bandits who approached leisurely, talking and laughing.
As they came nearer, the light from their torches confirmed they were bandits from Black Wind Ridge. They were easily identifiable due to their black robes prominently embroidered with a wolf sigil.
The middle aged bandit riding in the centre seemed to be leading the two others slightly behind him. His face bore the signs of his age, while his eyes emitted an icy stare devoid of emotions, the blade by his side always poised to strike.
"Ha ha ha, third elder brother, we've been up in the mountains for far too long! We only see this village a few times a year, and they sure look prosperous now."
The voice came from a burly bandit as he impassively scrutinized the villagers, hastily climbing up the mudwall, "They could even build an outpost and a mudwall. We should start increasing their crop taxes—apparently we didn't take enough from them last year!"
There were merely three bandits, but it was enough to send the entire village into war-like chaos.
"Who else hasn't arrived?" the chieftain asked as he furrowed his brows and examined those present. At times like these, regardless of whether a fight actually broke out, all the men were expected to show up to face the bandits.
"All are present, except for widow Zhuang's son, a scholar. He'll be taking the Imperial Examinations and is sick."
At this moment, the middle-aged bandit fearlessly entered the village and started laughing, "Traitorous village! I dare you to shoot arrows at me."
The clamour in the dark gradually began to subside as people scrambled about. A villager shouted, "The bandits are here! The bandits are here!"
"Listen up, villagers. Hand over this year's taxes, and give up your beautiful women!"
"We just paid our taxes recently, and don't have money now! Sir, have mercy!"
"Cut the crap! Give us your money and women or try to kill us, but we, the Black Wind Sect, will kill everyone here, not sparing even animals!"
What's that sound?
A youth opened his eyes and observed his surroundings. The faint light from the sky outside illuminated the room. A beam supported the roof, which was fashioned from old tiles. There were some cracks on the wall, plugged with twigs and grasses to prevent the wind from entering. The windows were paper thin and in poor condition. It was rare to see such a poor village. He couldn't help but wonder; Where could I be?
As he thought that, he felt an inexplicable ache across his head. His chest felt hollow and everything went blank. The pain felt thousands of times worse than a hangover, and cut right to the soul. It felt like his world had been ripped apart and formed again. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead as he panted, gasping for air. All he could hear was the commotion unfolding outside.
"We can't fight; we can't fight them! Black Wind Gang number in hundreds, let's just hand the girl over. Chieftain, she's but an orphan."
"Ai, ai, I'll be ashamed to meet her parents."
As the commotion persisted outside, the youth's survival instincts finally kicked in; he stumbled out of bed. Feeling as if sickness had taken over his body once more, he moved carelessly. He discovered the shoes he had on were made of cloth, thin and undersized. He was wearing a plain handmade shirt that was grey with age and rough to the touch.
How to describe it?
The traditional robe he had on was of a variety of styles from across provinces with various tribal styles. It looked like a weird cosplay clothing. Washed and starched numerous times, it gave a strange sensation that couldn't be ignored.
Thinking like this made his head hurt, and whatever was locked up in his mind was raring to be set free. The din from outside had still not abated.
"Open the door Miss Su! Open the door!"
"Su San, even if you don't want to open the door, you must! Your neighbour Pei Zi Yun is sick and unable to protect you."
The people were causing a racket that could be heard from next door. It sounded like everyone was talking at the same time, using different accents. The youth instinctively understood what was being said. Shadows moved past the door and footsteps belonging to some twenty to thirty men were audible. He furrowed his brows and muttered, "Are they filming a movie or what…?"
After listening to the incessant knocking next door, the youth, without thinking clearly, walked steadily to open his own door. He felt a timely relief from his sickness, augmented by the sudden strength in his limbs. Raising his arms, he felt a strange sense of vitality and felt puzzled by his suddenly clear vision. It was akin to removing a foggy rain-soaked pair of glasses to perfect vision.
At this moment, remembering, the youth looked down… The feet in his shoes were pale and fair, and clearly did not belong to him. The legs looked feminine and thin.
The youth's hands roamed around his chest, then he sighed, his expression turning weird. Raising his hands to get a better look, he realized that this was the body of a strong young person. Calluses were scattered across his palms, probably a result of working on the fields or wielding a sword. As he stared blankly for a few seconds, his attention was drawn to the piece of firewood in the fireplace, where a knife was lodged, its blade glistening.
He gently opened the door and peered outside. The background of mountains was visible, a sight to behold. This was a small village atop a hill. Villagers were scampering about, coaxing a woman into coming out, to no avail.
The women of the village could be heard shouting, "Ye Su'er if you go to Black Wind Ridge you'll have delicious meals and spicy drinks; don't be afraid!"
"Why is there no sound?"
"Let's not waste time talking. Being a foreigner, she won't appreciate your kinds words. Since everyone in her household is dead, we can knock down the door and tie her up!"
"Oh, but she's holding a pair of scissors!"
"Let's keep our voices down, we wouldn't want to alarm her neighbour. The kid next door has affections for her, and once he's agitated, he's capable of anything. Besides, he's a scholar!
"Have we crossed over?" spoke a worm which gently descended from a bamboo leaf and climbed onto the face of the youth, who stood there like a statue. His head was burning, and everyone treated him as if he wasn't alive.
At this point, as if the crowd's discussion had managed to agitate the girl next door, she weeped gently, and the sounds of her cries felt familiar to him. Her words reached his ears. "Brother Pei..."1
The sound of her cries conjured the key to his past self's memory vault and unlocked it.
"I vow to reward you, but only if you can complete my missions. To protect the one I love and to exact vengeance upon my enemies who took everything from me! Doing so will restore peace to this chaotic era of cultivators." He continued, "You, my successor, have a very interesting thought process. And if you succeed, you will be able to obtain my Plum Blossom.
A sharp pain pierced between his eyebrows as his body went stiff, and his breathing stopped. The moonlight shone through the bamboo leaves and reflected on the forehead of the youth, right in between his eyebrows. All of a sudden a transparent image of a Plum Blossom appeared, a single petal becoming faintly discernible.
"Noo!" In an instant, memories both familiar and foreign began flooding him, until nothing was left except a ray of crimson light.
The youth shivered and subconsciously touched his neck before getting consumed by his memories once more.
This was a slow and long dream, spanning a person's entire lifetime.
Just like him, he was also called Pei Zi Yun.
This world followed the laws of the Dao. This person from the past was gifted with a spiritual gift at birth. However, ignorance, weakness and unreasonable actions caused a five year delay before he was finally admitted into a Daoist Sect. It was only after much difficulty that he could finally walk the Dao, only to ultimately be betrayed by the senior brother he respected. The memories came flooding in once again.
"Innate spirit gift? After the treasure had been taken, what was left were mere spiritual roots. A wish for rebirth? Hence, I granted his wish to be reborn and arrived in the original owner's body but ten years earlier?"
"I travelled back in time!"
His body felt sore and weak; his head hurt so bad, it felt like it was about to split apart… Countless memories combined repeatedly, as his spirit began to take shape. Emotions joined the fray as well. There was love, hatred, disappointment and longing.
Right before his eyes, stood Ye Su'er.
"Is he being awakened by Su'er?"
Ye Su'er, his childhood sweetheart… To be apart for so long and to finally be reunited in a strict cultivator sect. Both of them were unable to forget each other. However, he was filled with fear and apprehension at accepting her romantic feelings—her past, future, body and soul.
The memories continued streaming in, halting only right before death—old enemies facing him, the Plum Blossom meeting its roots, lightning rays bursting forth. Everything became a void, He… No! His past self's wish had been granted.
All of a sudden, a small, white Plum Blossom appeared before his eyes, expanding rapidly before turning into an information interface. It was almost transparent as it floated around. Details began to form before his eyes.
Name : Pei Zi Yun
Power : None (Parasitic)
Race : Human
Occupation : Scholar
The youth looked at his skillset, blurry eyed but still focused as it gradually got clearer. It was a pair of grey symbols of a book and a sword.
As the symbols appeared, his thoughts formed a line of words:
The Four Books and Five Classics : Initiate (Rookie)
Free Cloud Sword Technique" : Initiate (Rookie)
Following that, a line of red words appeared on the information box:
Mission : Save Ye Su'er
The transparent Plum Blossom lingered between his eyebrows, not moving an inch. As soon as the ray of moonlight shifted, the Plum Blossom disappeared as though it was never there.
 Brother here does not necessarily refer to any kinship. It is just an affectionate term used to describe an older man, even if they are in love.