"Slow down, be careful... You won't starve... Don't eat with your hands, use chopsticks!"
Zhou Hua, six or seven months pregnant, was sitting across from Little Shiba and watched him gobble down his meal. She was angry and laughing at the same time. She wondered what had happened to him recently. He was very amenable to previous encounters but became very disobedient in recent months. He aimlessly ran over mountains whenever he had spare time. He came back every time stinking and sweaty. When she asked where he had gone to, his excuse was practicing martial arts, which was absolutely incredible due to his young age. When he went out, he did not even come home for a meal. Alas, what he had done made his mother mad. She told him as long as he was late to come home, food would not be supplied. This way worked at first, but later Little Shiba became so smart that he had meals in his sister's home when his mother did not supply any food.
"Yummy! It's really yummy. Sister, you're really good at cooking, even better than our mother!" While Little Shiba was eating, he flattered Zhou Hua through muttering. Because of these flatteries, Zhou Hua was very happy and concerned about him all the time, even though she was pregnant.
"You boy. You're so young, but smart! Eat your meal and stop saying such beautiful words!" Wang Tianlei sat nearby, holding a thread-bound book and displaying dissatisfaction for the youngest brother.
"Hey brother, what are you reading?"
From the first time that he came to his sister's home to bum meals, he found the book that Wang Tianlei held was titled Ignis Skill.
Judging strictly from the title, he was certain it was a secret tome of martial arts skill. Compared with his initial elation over the book, he was a lot calmer now.
It was all because that he had already recited the whole book.
When he first glanced at the two characters, Little Shiba scurried off with the book. By the characters and pictures on it, he identified it as a secret of Internal Strength. Moreover, it was more abstruse than Unusual Strength Qigong that was taught by Wang Tianlei.
From then on, he often had dinner away from home. He took eating at his sister's home as an excuse for reciting and remembering the secrets.
Although Wang Tianlei deemed it as a treasure and saved it cautiously, he had a habit that after dinner he must pull it out and have a look at it every time, which naturally gave Little Shiba an opportunity to achieve his purpose.
Naturally, Wang Tianlei could not protect it from him.
It did not matter if he saw it, for a three-year-old child did not know anything. Because Wang Tianlei was so lax in thinking, Little Shiba recited the pithy formulas of Ignis Skill within a month. The book was thin, with about 20 pages. What was more, this book was written in Chinese characters. Compared to English words that Little Shiba had learned in his previous lifetime, this book was much easier. Little Shiba, however, did not dare to practice, because figures in the book were only partially memorized.
After practicing Unusual Strength Qigong, naturally he knew that there should be no mistakes in the working flow of Internal Qi. Once there was a deviation, the person would be possessed by the devil, or would die immediately. Little Shiba had the ability to recite texts but did not have the experience to remember figures. He remembered all of the characters little by little but did not dare to ensure that his memory was completely correct.
Therefore, he seized every chance to have a look, to ensure whether the pictures he remembered were right.
As for the question, he asked repeatedly, "What are you reading?" His brother-in-law gave the same answer with three words every time.
"I don't know!"
Previously, after hearing that reply, Little Shiba would say, "Oh," and keep silent.
It was different today, however, because he only had one picture to worry about. Hence, he required a reason to obtain an opportunity to ensure the final process.
Finishing the last mouthful of his meal, he scooted to Wang Tianlei's side and stretched his neck to be in front of the book with a pair of sparkling eyes. "Brother-in-law, what's this? Why do you read it every day?"
"I'm f*cking illiterate!" Little Shiba's questions rubbed him raw. He put the book on his knee and said in obvious anger, "If I was educated, I wouldn't need to read it repeatedly!"
"What do these pictures mean?" Little Shiba inadvertently took the book which had gotten reversed. When he opened it, it just turned to the last page. Of course, the pictures on the last page came into his sight.
"These pictures are the working flow of Internal Qi!" Wang Tianlei said to himself without any doubts. "What a pity! These pictures are only able to be fully understood when coordinated with the characters on them!"
"It doesn't matter. You can learn it!" Little Shiba focused his eyes on the last page of Ignis Skill and blurted out, "The old blind man can recognize the characters!"
"Right! Why didn't I think of it?" Wang Tianlei suddenly made a strange cry and straightened his body from the chair. "The old blind man can see nothing, however, he still can teach us."
"Yeap! Yeap! I also want to learn it!" Little Shiba said. He cast a last glance at the book and gently put it down. "Brother, can you teach me after you've learned it? Is that ok?"
"Anyway, that old swindler has nothing to do, and he's not able to support himself. We might as well give him a chance to teach us. It's not just for me, but for all people in the village. Whoever wants to study, it's ok. Especially those little kids, troublemakers, all of them should be forced to study. There are also some hunters who are full of energy. After practicing every day, these hunters can learn to recognize words, which could develop their minds and improve their hot tempers. In this way, the old swindler can get rewards, and doesn't have to pretend to be poor in the village all day!"
"Is that all right?" There were some doubts flashing on Zhou Hua's face after she heard that. "Will someone else come to study?"
"I don't care whether they come. In this case, they'll decide on their own. But all village kids like Little Shiba should. Hey, I suffered a lot from being illiterate."
At that moment, he sighed with a sense of bitterness.
"You're just 20 years old, don't act like an old man."
Hearing Wang Tianlei's sigh, Zhou Hua frowned and pinched him unhappily.
"Teach us?" Little Shiba was stunned by that until he digested what he meant, which made Little Shiba idolize him more. Was that not a campaign to wipe out illiteracy? It was a time when people's literacy was extremely backward. Like their village, excluding Little Shiba, only the old swindler, incapable of seeing things, was literate.
Moreover, in this era, at least in the eyes of these villagers, there was no use in improving their literacy. For the villagers, only the gentlemen who lived in the county town could read and write, while their lives were to hunt and farm during the day and to create the next generation with their wives at night.
What Wang Tianlei planned was much greater than these ordinary mountain villagers. It might, however, be very difficult to carry this matter out.
"Well, brother, I also want to learn to read. Can you talk to my father about letting me go to school? Can you?!"
"Of course, it's beneficial for you to learn at a young age. Hasn't father-in-law said that you'll be sent to Qingyang Market as an apprentice? If you learn to read, your prospects are much brighter than ordinary people's!" Wang Tianlei said with laughter, patting Little Shiba's little head.
Little Shiba twisted several times and got his head out of Wang Tianlei's big hands. "Well, my brother, if the old blind man teaches you, you must tell me!"
"Don't call him the old blind man anymore. He'll be your teacher, so you should respect him!" Suddenly, Wang Tianlei said with a solemn look, "These are rules and principles. You should keep in mind that rules and principles shouldn't be abandoned at any time!"
"Yes, brother!" Little Shiba nodded quickly, with an appearance of willingness to accept instructions.
"Well, boy, you've already had your meal, and it's time for you to go home. Our mother will blame you again if you don't go home immediately!"
After Little Shiba heard the words from his brother-in-law, he felt amnesty in his heart and said, "Oh, ok, thank you, my brother. I'm leaving." He then trotted off and left Wang Tianlei's home.
This is awesome. Now, the last picture has been ensured, and the fact that I can read will be covered up. Good, really good, my brother-in-law is talented. It's a pity for him to stay in the village. But if not for his help, however, I wouldn't be so lucky!
Little Shiba, Boxer, and Houndie lived in one very large room. Although the Zhou's were not a rich family, they had enough room. The three brothers lived in one room but were very far away from each other. What was more, they had their own soil bed. Though the soil bed was quite cheesy and inferior, it was very warm and practical.
Little Shiba's bed was against the south wall where there was a hole whose size was just enough to let the bright moonlight through the window.
After he climbed on his bed and covered up with his quilt, he groped around the mattress a few times and took out several pieces of crumpled paper. He then carefully looked at these papers with the dim moonlight through the small hole. A naked figure drawn by charcoal pencils was presented on the paper, and the figure was made up by a few black lines. At the junction of the black lines, acupoints were written down one by one, and it was the pictures that Little Shiba memorized from Ignis Skill. Today he was going to make a final confirmation!