Millennium Snow Ginseng (千年雪蔘)
This time I am sure that I can obtain the Millennium Snow Ginseng. Not surprisingly, my Neigong has clearly progressed immensely since my second death, and I have saved up money for the last three years as a guard. So I would like to journey back to Huangshan without any regard for my past failures. There is nothing now that hampers me.
I also have a large collection of maps of Huangshan and geographical information, which I have gathered during my time serving as a guard. I have been meticulous in preparing for the last three years to the extent that if I fail this time, it will shock me.
Why am I trying to eat the Millennium Snow Ginseng?
The reason is that the moment I consume it once, I no longer drift under First Class but can surely confront Peak Class (絕頂 Juédǐng).
The existence of Peak Class (絕頂 Juédǐng) martial artist is not often very common in this world.
I was told, that there are no more than five hundred Peak Class (絕頂 Juédǐng) people within the central continent, despite the hundreds of millions of populaces. Their accumulated force is so great that they can change the face of the world, and they lack of nothing but wealth and honor. Although people say that they have seen Peak Class (絕頂 Juédǐng) martial artists in many parts of the world, they are often mistaken for First Class wanderers. Finding a true Peak Class (絕頂 Juédǐng) martial artist can be compared to finding a wild ginseng that is over a hundred years old.
How will my life change as soon as I have such power?
Imagining it is a pleasant thought beyond waiting.
I made a thorough preparation for scouring the mountain, climbing, and food arrangements for my year-long excursions in Huangshan. I will be also using the maps of the inner mountains, to determine the appropriate direction to explore.
There is a total of seventy-two peaks in Huangshan, but the only peaks I need to search through are thirty. It is clear that twenty-four peaks in the outer sides are free of the Millennium Snow Ginseng, and I should exclude twelve peaks near Huangshan Faction too. The base of Huangshan Faction is on six of those peaks, so all I have to do is search through only thirty peaks.
The first peak excursions began the day after I reached the bottom of the mountain. I left my baggage in the hands of a nearby inn and started to climb up Huangshan with hiking equipments. I had to travel into the mountain while avoiding people. Sure enough, it took a great deal of time and efforts on the first day, as there were many places where peoples hands did not cover yet.
When the search for the first day was over, I was quite tired and trudged back to the inn. I tried to recover forcing my body into a deep sleep, but somehow I couldn’t sleep. It was natural for me to do the same thing since I have been exploring the mountain all day.
‘It’s not very efficient. I can't shorten my search movements, if I am running back and forth to a small inn.'
I should not wander outside but look on the inner peaks only. It would be like walking at least twelve kilometers a day, but when I travel from a inn to another mountain every time, I am wasting more time. Then, it is better to build a thatched house within the mountain.
The following day I started to build a thatched house at the mouth of the inner mountains within Huangshan. It was easy as I had once built a thatched house.
First, I gathered wooden poles to form the base of the house, then I cut it into appropriate sizes and laid it down on the floor. I then placed things on the roof to prevent rain and dew. It was awkward to build a thatched house by myself, but I had learned quite a lot, while getting close to the plasterers who constructed the building, during the days I worked as a guard.
It was about four days after I finally completed that kind of house. The thatches appeared to hang on to the house all day. Even the shape was not that good, but it’s just a house that I could utilize to avoid the rain and dew. There was a lot of rice straw on the floor, but heating the house was impossible. I did not even build a separate kitchen. It was good enough, though I had done a lot of hard work in my life, I could humbly say that I've built a house well.
It's a secondary matter whether my residence was comfortable or not, since now the important thing was to locate the Millennium Snow Ginseng.
After the house was set up, the search began in earnest.
If I needed something to eat, I bought groceries from the village.
If I wanted to wash, I washed in a nearby stream.
If I did not want to spend money, I hunted and ate a wildlife near me.
However, the owner of the inn wanted to report me to the government office because he thought I was a madman, but soon he was convinced that I was just trying to live in the mountains from an early age.
Approximately two months has now passed.
I just finished exploring around four out of the thirty peaks. It was very hard to traverse the four mountains thoroughly, but I did it by holding on with my Neigong. As I started hiking and eventually worked hard every day, I felt my Neigong was sticking to my veins even more.
By that time, the money I had saved for three years was depleted by half. If this was the case, I would be flat broke in a few months, so I worried about what to do next. After much consideration, I came to a conclusion.
I could not be completely disconnected from the world. I was not a natural hunter and I had a limit on the way I fed off on the wildlife. Regardless of the power of Martial Arts (武功 Wǔgōng), hunting animals was a very physically demanding and painful process. I felt the need to somehow earn money for my groceries.
Martial Arts means fighting styles and techniques, including physical exercises, methods of mental discipline, and more.
Fortunately, one word from the owner of the delegation decided what I should do.
“You live in the mountains, don’t you? Then cut the trees and take them to the lumber mill. They’ll buy off you some.”
It was as the owner said. The trees of Huangshan were of high quality and usefulness, so there were separate timber mills in the village to process them.
The first thing people do at the lumber mill is to process the wood and then supply it where it is needed.
I signed a contract with the owner of a timber mill and started cutting trees from time to time. Of course, cutting down the trees was an easy task, and it was easy enough to cut down two or three trees in moderation. The owner of the lumber mill was horrified by how I was merely cutting and the lifting of the oak by myself.
If money was needed, I would cut down trees in the lumber mill and spend the rest of the time simply practicing Neigong or digging around Huangshan. As I was living in the mountains, I felt more and more accommodated to my daily life.
Thus a year has gradually passed.
I searched through another nine peaks, but I couldn’t locate the Millennium Snow Ginseng. As far as progress was concerned, it was now only roughly about thirty percent. With the exact pace of my search as expected, I felt much better.
The owner of the inn used to talk to me when he saw me.
“You are originally a warrior, but why do you live in Huangshan?”
“I just don’t like people.”
He clucked his tongue and I just smiled.
It is not wrong to say that I don’t like people. Until I find my way up into the elite circles, I would like to avoid publicity or being needlessly recognized. It is best to live a quiet life and earnestly make efforts to locate the place where the Millennium Snow Ginseng is expected.
It’s been another three months.
The house was broken down by heavy rain. I rebuilt the thatched house, but it was much larger than the previous one. I predicted a prolonged struggle because it has been often very cold when rain or bitter wind hit. This time, I decided to build up a fence to block the wind as much as possible.
Three months have passed again.
The village was hit by a dreadful storm that ruined a year’s farming. The peasants were wearing necklaces of dying statues, and the village atmosphere was fraught in turmoil because the farm owners were also perplexed by the dire situation. When people faced such hardships in making a living, I couldn’t afford to bring trees to the lumber mill and make money off it. Because of the lumber mill's connection with the farms, an outsider like me could not make money with that kind of job. So, I had to hunt snakes, wild boars, and deer in the wild for a period.
Meanwhile, I started to make a bow and used it rather well. Because of my martial arts, I could catch wild animals with knives and spears, but I also felt that the bow was simple but most of all, very effective. I hung a stone arrowhead with a wooden hook, and I enjoyed it because I had enough strength to shoot long distance.
I’ve been in Huangshan for nearly two years.
Now I could estimate of having explored sixteen peaks. It was slightly slower than expected, but more than half of them were searched thoroughly. I bought some liquor from the village and guzzled them in front of my door.
It was the first time in my second life that I drank alcohol. It was so stuffy that I was about to become quickly drunk. I muttered in a foul mood.
“Where do white and black lotus flowers bloom together? Where the hell is that?”
I haven’t shared this with anyone regarding my only clue so far. It's because I wanted to avoid someone's interest. But the situation was now limited in locating the place with just one last clue.
Now my body was fully grown up as a young adult and my beard was quite long. I felt my patience running out because it might have taken a few more years. The feeling of being drunk, sniveling, and falling asleep was even terrible.
‘No, I have to ask and look for it. If I look through thirty peaks in all and then find nothing, my mind will not withstand it.’
Let’s stop acting like a middleman. Even if someone pays attention to it and starts looking for it, my search speed will be still faster.
Although I had a little doubt, I decided to ask around the townspeople or the nearby villages.
The first question was given to the inn owner.
“Have you ever seen or heard of the black lotus flower?”
The first time I asked, he took a bit of time while tilting his head pondering. But on a second thought, he then said, "Yes."
“I think I heard somewhere that some monk is nurturing it!”
“What kind of monk is he?”
“I don’t know. I just heard a glimpse of it in passing.”
The next person I questioned was the lumber mill owner. In fact, he was the closest person to live in the village under Huangshan mountains.
"Black lotus flower… A monk raises it…"
"I think I’ve heard that," said he after considering it.
“It is probably a tale of Baekhwan temple. There was a little gossip about the head monk, and I think people just went to see it."
“Baekhwan temple is on Baekhwan peak.”
Nevertheless, I was sorely disappointed…
If I had asked earlier, I could have discovered a clue much earlier. Because I asked two years since I had started living in Huangshan, people held no misgivings about me. If I hadn’t stayed home long, there would have been a person who is interested in my career at once.
In reality, the owner of the inn and the owner of the lumber mill answered my questions, but they did not care much about the question in passing.
After asking for the location of Baekhwan temple, I headed towards Baekhwan peak. It was one of the remaining fourteen peaks I have not yet searched. The distance was more than sixteen kilometers, but I arrived there as I walked with a joyful spirit.
'From now on, I will explore Baekhwan peak.'
‘Shall I visit the head monk of Baekhwan temple first?’
It might be good to see a black lotus flower, which is raised by the head monk.
I thought so, then travelled up the stairs to Baekhwan temple and met him after a while. He was not a person who learned martial arts but just a typical old monk. He was old enough to enter the coffin immediately. The shaking of his shoulders and hands seemed to lead to a sudden death.
'If I came a little later, he would have died.'
"Do you want to see the black lotus flower?”
“Yes. I heard it was a very unusual flower…”
The head monk was smiling faintly.
“Strange… unique… in the snow field… I brought it with me.”
“I… a decade ago… on the way… slipped my feet in a secluded valley… It was covered with heavy snow… I was safe even when I fell… There was a pond in the snow field… The lotus flower in the pond was blooming, and it was black…”
“Is that the flower you brought?”
He seemed pleased to say that.
“I brought some lotus seeds…”
“Where is the snow field?”
"I don’t know. It’s foggy as hell….”
“Please come away now. The head monk is truly sick…"
A monk drew me out. When I also asked about the black lotus flowers, they took me back to the temple. At the back of the temple, there were black lotus flowers. I said while I was enjoying the black lotus flowers.
“There are only black lotus flowers here.”
“Usually, lotus flowers are white, but they are a little weird. But the roots and leaves of the black lotus flowers are healthy, so we eat them often.”
“I see. You guys went to the same valley which the head monk told you about, didn’t you?”
“There is no reason to look for it. It’s a strange terrain and Huangshan is a very large place. We don’t have to go through them one by one."
Judging from the faces of the monks, the statement seemed to be true. They are just monks who practice daily in the mountains.
I was in a depressed mood, feeling as if something like a conspiracy of Wulin (武林 Wǔlín - literally "Martial Forest", figuratively refers to the community of martial artists) people were involved.
'If I look around Baekhwan peak, I will find the snow field. Snow field and the Millennium Snow Ginseng must be connected!’
My search started again.
This time, I wish I would find it within a year.
I have lived a life of hardship searching for it, and it was very hard to live in the mountains over the past few years.
I'll find it.
I'll find it for sure.
I will surely eat the Millennium Snow Ginseng!
I shouted in exultation.
Today was after three years and two months of entering Huangshan mountains. It was over a year ago that I started searching again based on Baekhwan peak. As I was searching the middle of Jangnam peak, which is farther from Baekhwan peak, I found a craggy cliff landscape, and I proceeded to cut down the leaves and twigs.
In front of my very eyes, there lay a white snow field. The mysterious terrain formed behind the valley was a sphere-shaped one in which Yin Qi (陰氣 Yīnqì) was condensed throughout the year, so the air in the sky was suddenly cold, and the weather was winter all the time.
In the field, the snow piled up never melted. There was also a pond where the head monk spoke about. Just like what I heard, it was a place with white and black lotus flowers.
‘Ah… not yet. Just a little bit more please…’
I gritted my teeth through the snow, enduring the freezing cold in the snow field. A gust of wind blew around the snow field of the pond. Meanwhile, I found a cave that was strangely uncovered. It was a large cave big enough to hold two or three people in, so I walked in carefully.
On the inside of the cave lay another snow field. There was something big in the middle of the sunlight reflecting down. It was as long as a human arm. There was a pattern on the surface that looked like a backflow that I heard about.
“Ahh ah ah…!”
I screamed my head off. Then I knelt down and wept.
“I finally found the Millennium Snow Ginseng!!!”
Three years and two months!
Exactly six years have passed since my second death!
Now, I have achieved my goal of finding the Millennium Snow Ginseng!!!
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Editors: T0ngan, Calvis