"You… Are you really Su Ming?"
Zi Yan looked at Su Ming. Even then, she still found it hard to relate the person from the ninth summit in her memories with this person who, with just a wave of his hand, could make a powerful Berserker in the middle stage of the Berserker Soul Realm die as he retreated in shock.
"You should be calling me uncle master."
As Su Ming looked at Zi Yan, a smile appeared on his face. To him, the woman before his eyes was not just Zi Che’s older sister, but also the person his second senior brother had somewhat fancied.
"Uncle master… Su." Zi Yan hesitated for a moment, then instinctively wrapped her fist in her palm to bow towards him. There was still shock lingering in her eyes.
"I haven’t been back to the land of the Berserkers for many years. How is the ninth summit?"
Su Ming looked at the woman standing before him. She had already lost the glory of her youth. The graceful teenage girl in the past was now a middle-aged woman. The wrinkles at the corners of her eyes might not be very clear, but he could still see some of them.
Time had been gentle on this woman. It had not taken away too much of her youth, while giving her an ancient look and an air of maturity. The girl of the past had now become a married woman full of grace and charm.
She was beautiful in the past, and even though she had aged, she still looked attractive enough to stir the hearts of men. There was a charm about her that was different compared to those of young girls. However… when Su Ming saw the distance between her and Ya Mu, he had a feeling that their relationship was not an ordinary one.
When Zi Yan heard Su Ming’s question, she forced down the shock in her heart, and it was replaced with a wave of mixed feelings. She would never have expected that the Su Ming who had disappeared twenty years ago would one day be standing so strong before her. This sort of strength was something that she would not even dare to dream of possessing.
As of then, he was truly worthy of being her uncle master, and without her even realizing it herself, a respectful expression that intertwined with the complicated emotions within her came to her face.
"Freezing Sky Clan… has split up since five years ago. Heaven Gate left, and they brought with them many outstanding disciples so that they could resist the Catastrophe of the Eastern Wastelands up above the nine heavens with the power of Heaven Gate.
"The mountains on the ground are still around, but have been abandoned… All our clan members from the other summits are mostly scattered. I left with some of my sisters under the same Master… We experienced many things on the way, and this lasted until… we met senior Yun Lai…" When Zi Yan said those words, her expression turned a little gloomy, and she seemed to be finding it hard to articulate her words.
"The clan was in a mess at that time. I… I didn’t pay too much attention to the ninth summit." When Zi Yan said those words, she saw Su Ming’s brows crinkle slightly.
"But I do remember second uncle master leaving a few years before the chaos, and he seemed to have yet to come back," Zi Yan quickly said.
Su Ming fell silent. After a long while, he lifted his head to look in the direction of the land of the Berserkers, which laid in the distance.
"What about my Master?"
"I… I’m not too sure about granduncle master Tian Xie Zi. But I do know that your eldest senior brother came out of isolation five years after the great battle between the Shamans and Berserkers. I wonder whether he made it back after he left."
Zi Yan thought about it for a moment, then quickly offered her answer. She looked at Su Ming. They might not have seen each other for twenty years, but the memories of the past still remained in her head. The ninth summit’s second uncle master had liked her, there was no way she would have been unable to see it.
However, when she remembered this, besides anguish, there was also a feeling that times had changed greatly in Zi Yan’s heart.
‘If I had been together with his second senior brother, then now…’ Zi Yan felt a slight stab of pain in her heart, and she fell silent.
Ya Mu was in a daze as he stood by the side. As he listened to Zi Yan and Su Ming’s conversation, his eyes gradually went wide. He stared at Su Ming with a dumbfounded expression, and his breathing quickened abruptly.
‘Mo Su… Mo Su… Su Ming…’
Ya Mu looked at Su Ming, and his mind fell into a state of chaos. He had recognized Su Ming, had recognized him as the person who had talked to him for a long time by the bonfire when they were both in Autumn Sea Tribe.
He also managed to recognize…
"Greetings, senior. I am Ya Mu. I will never forget how you gave me a chance to remold myself!" Ya Mu took a few steps back and wrapped his fist in his palm before bowing deeply towards Su Ming.
He was bowing towards Hong Luo, who had appeared before him in the past, showing his gratitude towards Hong Luo giving all the life force of the Latter Shaman in Autumn Sea Tribe to Ya Mu after he killed her. This was the reason why Ya Mu was halfway through to become a Latter Shaman.
As time passed by, the things that had happened in the past were gradually made known to the people who had set their minds to learn about them, especially for those who’d seen Su Ming before and were acquainted with him.
"I didn’t expect that senior Mo would be from the same clan as my lover. You both came from the Berserkers’ Freezing Sky Clan…" There was a rather respectful look on Ya Mu’s face, and when he stood up, he was filled with a rather sentimental feeling.
A sharp glint appeared in Su Ming’s eyes. He had not been acquainted with Ya Mu for long, and they could not even be considered friends. At most, they could only be considered acquaintances. Their relationship was completely different compared to the relationship he had with Zi Yan.
To other people, that glint in Su Ming’s eyes was skin to looking at a flashing golden light. A mighty pressure that pressed against the hearts and souls of all the living abruptly shot out from his eyes, causing Ya Mu to feel as if his mind was about to shatter. He moved back once again, and rumbling sounds roared in his head. He felt as if he had turned into a lone ship caught in a raging sea, and he was about to break down at any moment.
This mighty pressure felt like the awe-inspiring and dignified air of a leader. It made Ya Mu’s expression change drastically, and his breathing almost stopped. Right at that moment, Su Ming occupied his entire vision, as well as his entire soul. It was as if Su Ming just needed a single thought and Ya Mu’s life would be destroyed.
Zi Yan quickly took a step forward and blocked off Su Ming’s gaze towards Ya Mu. There was a complicated look on her face that had been marked by time. She opened her mouth, looking as if she wanted to say something.
"This is your personal affair, and it has nothing to do with me. I just don’t understand. What part of my second senior brother is not worthy of you?" Su Ming frowned and looked at Zi Yan before he shook his head.
Zi Yan’s face turned pale. In silence, she wrapped her fist in a palm towards Su Ming as a form of respect, then dragged Ya Mu away, who still looked a little dazed. As both of them were just about to leave, Zi Yan hesitated for a moment before she turned her head around and looked towards Su Ming.
"Uncle… master Su, do you still remember Han Cang Zi? When that change happened to the clan, she came with me to this place. If you still remember her, then I’m begging you, please help her…" Zi Yan looked at Su Ming and spoke softly.
"On behalf of us as members of the same clan, on behalf of her… being so devoted in her love for you in the past, please help her, uncle master Su…"
"Han Cang Zi…"
When Su Ming heard this name, a beautiful woman appeared in his mind. That woman’s gentle gaze, her meek personality, her determined eyes, the things that happened in Han Mountain City, and all his conflicts with Si Ma Xins.
These memories were originally rather murky in his head, but were becoming clearer with each passing moment.
"Fang Cang Lan," Su Ming stated calmly.
"Yes! It’s junior sister Fang!" When Zi Yan heard Su Ming mentioning Han Cang Zi’s name, excitement grew in her eyes.
"Four years ago, senior Yun Lai wanted to make junior sister Fang his concubine, but this thing was put on hold because junior sister Fang wanted to practice her cultivation. It was still the same two years ago. But now, junior sister Fang is about to complete her training. It’ll be difficult for her to continue pushing this aside. Once senior Yun Lai comes out of his isolation and makes this request again, junior sister Fang won’t be able to reject him…" Zi Yan looked at Su Ming and immediately spoke quickly.
Su Ming remained silent. The appearance of the woman in his memories grew clearer. Usually, when he remembered all the things that had happened to him in the past, he would always feel as if there was a veil covering his memories. Twenty years was not long, but Su Ming had died and reincarnated for an endless amount of times in the Undying and Imperishable World, and it had caused an ancient air to constantly linger about his face, though other people would not be able to see it.
Zi Yan waited for Su Ming’s answer. Time passed. However, even when Ya Mu had regained his senses and started regarding Su Ming in fear, Su Ming still had yet to speak. He simply stood there and looked into the distance, immersed in his thoughts.
Zi Yan’s face turned paler. In the end, she started laughing brokenly as she looked at Su Ming, and her eyes gradually grew wet with tears.
"Forget it. This has nothing to do with you. There is no reason for you to help. I know that your second senior brother liked me in the past. If we could turn back time and I could return to the past, then I would choose to accept his feelings…
"But that’s impossible, isn’t it…?
"Ya Mu is right. I am his companion for dual cultivation1. I’m no longer my youthful self either. Not only am I his companion for dual cultivation, I was even senior Yun Lai’s concubine, and he gave me to Ya Mu as if I was some sort of object!"
Zi Yan’s face was ashen pale. Her broken laughter sounded rather desolate. Tears flowed down her cheeks. It was as if she had been suppressing her emotions for many years, and now, she could no longer hold them back anymore. Her emotions burst forth from within her.
"You can look down on me as much as you want, but you are not me. You will never be able to understand what a girl has to do to survive after she was abandoned by her own clan and has to come face to face with the chaos in the land of the Berserkers as well as having to face the possibility of the Catastrophe of the Eastern Wastelands arriving at any moment!
"Cang Lan has always been rather meek and gentle. How were the two of us supposed to survive in the chaos before the calamity, when the world had lost all order and the only law that remained was the law of the jungle?!
"This lasted until we met senior Yun Lai. He took a fancy to Cang Lan, but there is also a toughness that exists under Cang Lan’s meek personality. She would rather die than submit to him. I was the one who took her place and became senior Yun Lai’s concubine. I tried to please him in every manner that I could, and that is the only reason why we were both able to survive during the calamity and arrive to the land of the Shamans.
"Everyone has a right to choose how they survive. Even if it’s wrong, at least we are still alive. Even if the decision is right… You can choose not to help Cang Lan. It’s simply her fault for keeping the wrong person in her heart from twenty years ago!"
Zi Yan wiped away her tears, and resolution appeared in her eyes. She no longer looked at Su Ming, but chose instead to turn into a long arc and fly into the sky. Ya Mu followed behind her silently. His gaze as he looked at Zi Yan was filled with great gentleness and deep compassion, a caring hidden in his eyes.
He loved Zi Yan. When he first saw her several years ago, he had fallen in love this woman, who hid her sorrow with her usually charming demeanor.
This adoration had turned into a love that would last for eternity and would not be weakened in Ya Mu’s heart, once he saw her standing alone by a reef as she looked at the seawater in the world. Tears had shone in her eyes, as well as deeply rooted fatigue.
That was why he begged the End Shaman Zong Ze to help him and paid a huge price to buy Zi Yan from Yun Lai, who had grown bored of her by then.
Su Ming lifted his head and looked at Zi Yan leaving with Ya Mu. He might look calm, but his heart had been moved by Zi Yan’s words.
"Where is she?" he asked languidly. He had never considered rejecting her favor to begin with, but had simply become absent minded due to his memories, and it had caused Zi Yan to misunderstand him.
1. Dual cultivation: 双修 (shuang1 xiu1). Perhaps you’ve seen this before. When a male Cultivator and a female Cultivator, or a male Cultivator and a male Cultivator, or a female Cultivator and a female Cultivator, or a human and a fairy/monster (whatever floats their boat) love each other very much and decide they want to train together, they *ahem*
Speaking of which, I wonder if you all know why Su Ming can tell straight away that a woman is married or not, considering rings on the left ring finger don’t mean married at that time.
What comes up next is just trivia, by the way.
In Imperial China, young girls wore their hair in braids, meaning that they were not eligible for marriage yet. When they were fifteen and had their coming-of-age ceremony, they would comb their hair into a twist and hold it together with a hairstick. At that time, they were eligible for marriage.
When a woman was married, she would have to tie up her hair. So they would choose to tie their hair in buns, and then they would have the rest of their hair tied in a loose knot at the nape of their necks.
This is just a rough and simple idea of how people could tell whether a woman is married in ancient China.
Also, I didn’t mention this before, but here is my distinction between Master and master.
Master is when someone refers to another person as a teacher who so happens to be like his or her surrogate father as well. There is definitely respect in there, hence capitalized M.
As for master, I use it when someone refers to another person who owns their lives. Since the person can choose to not be respectful, I use the non-capitalized m.