Mount San Xian is called thus due to it's height. Other than that, the mountain is named Mount San Xian due to the fact that it is covered in snow for a good part of the year, making it appear like one of those places that only immortals can live in.
Yun Qian Yu takes a deep breath, appreciating the view. No wonder it is called Mount San Xian, it looks as though only immortal beings can make this place their abode.
(TN: Mount San Xian means Mount Three Celestials.)
A cold icy wind blows by and Yun Qian Yu unconsciously wraps her cloak around her body tighter.
Gong Sang Mo wraps his arm around her and closes the window. Then, he takes off his cloak and puts it on her.
"It will be very hard for people who are here for the first time to adjust to the coldness."
Yun Qian Yu pokes her head out of the cloak, "How long did you live here for?"
"7 years. I have been following shifu since I was 5. When my mother passed away when I was eight, I left the mountain for a month to return to the manor. Then, I came back here and stayed here until I was 10. Then, my father died and I left the mountain again to go to war, not returning until 3 years later. I stayed for two more years before visiting imperial grandfather in the capital. That's when I met you. After that, I have been visiting shifu once a year," explains Gong Sang Mo.
Yun Qian Yu is taken aback when she hears that, "Had you not met me, would you have stayed in this mountain till the day you die?"
"Probably not. Based on grandfather and the Retired Emperor's rapport, they would just drag me back to the capital against my will. Besides, they need me to oversee Camp Long Wei." Gong Sang Mo naturally knows what Yun Qian Yu is worried of. She is worried that his shifu will dislike her for keeping him away.
Now that Yun Qian Yu thinks about it, he is right. He is the kingdom's Xian Wang, not just any other civilian.
The road is covered in snow and the horse-shoe prints that the delegation from Jiu Xiao Kingdom and Mo Dai Kingdom left from yesterday are still here.
Their carriages are moving slowly and shakily and every once in a while, the horses will slip. One can only hear the sound of wheels rolling on top of snowy roads.
Yearning for a mountain will indeed kill one's horse; people are not just saying that for the sake of saying. After four hours of journey, they finally reached the foot of Mount San Xian.
Their carriage stops.
"The mountain is too steep. If we want to reach the top, we must climb," says Gong Sang Mo.
Gong Sang Mo ties her cloak's ribbon tightly before wrapping a white fur scarf around her neck. Then, he puts on a fur hat on her head before stepping out of the carriage.
Yun Qian Yu follows him from behind. Cold wind pierces her face like needles. She quickly hides her face on the fur scarf around her neck.
Her body does not feel as cold as her face. She is wearing a pair of thick fur boots that insulates really well.
The sky is already dark. She looks up and can see a couple of large courtyards dotting the foot of the mountain. They are illuminated by torches and lights. There are a lot of carriages parked outside. The stable nearby are lined with horses too.
San Qiu's carriage reaches the courtyard first.
Two young men wearing thick cotton robes walk out from the front building.
They seem pleasantly surprised to see San Qiu, "Has Senior Uncle returned?"
San Qiu smiles, "Yes, Master is right behind me. He will be here soon."
"I will handle the carriage. The weather outside is very cold, tell Senior Uncle to come in and drink some warm tea first before continuing the climb."
"Alright. There are a lot of us, so we have 4 carriages. Please feed the horses for us!
"Don't worry! Just leave it to us!" The two young men opens the gate wider to let the carriages in. It is clear that only personal personnel from Mount San Xian are allowed to bring their carriages into the inner courtyard. Ji Shu Liu's, by proxy, is also allowed in.
After taking care of the carriages, the two young disciples rush out, just in time to see Gong Sang Mo leading Yun Qian Yu int the courtyard while holding her hand. The expression on his face when he speaks to her is full of love.
The two disciples are taken aback. Is this really their Senior Uncle? They thought he hates it when other people touches him; and now, he is actually the one who took the initiative to hold other people's hand! That gentle smile on his face when he looks at the girl….. Don't tell them their Senior Uncle has gotten married?
San Qiu looks at them, "What are you doing standing there instead of making tea?"
They turn to San Qiu before curiously asking, "Did Senior Uncle get married?"
San Qiu is perplexed when he hears that question. He looks at Gong Sang Mo who is chatting intimately with Yun Qian Yu before smiling, "Not yet."
All three are now looking at the couple.
Even if they aren't married yet, this woman ought to be the one their Senior Uncle is set to marry.
The two young disciples immediately rush into the kitchen before walking out with a pot of hot tea. They are really excited to see their Senior Uncle's future wife.
As for the couple in question, they have walked into the main hall with Ji Shu Liu.
There is a huge furnace in the middle of the main hall, causing warm air to radiate comfortably inside the area.
Gong Sang Mo helps Yun Qian Yu take off her coat and scarf, "Take it off first, it'd be warmer that way."
Yun Qian Yu nods. The fur that lines the cloak is white, while the dress underneath is in Yun Qian Yu's favourite colour, blue. Even the shoes that she is wearing is sewn using blue fabric. These are all prepared under Gong Sang Mo's instruction. He knows that she likes blue, particularly the one in the watery shade, so he already ordered everything for her beforehand.
Yun Qian Yu, who is thin, looks pretty round when bundled up like this.
The moment those young disciples see Yun Qian Yu's face, they are stunned. No wonder even their Senior Uncle has fallen in love, this woman looks like a celestial being. They have never seen someone so beautiful before.
Even Long Xiang Luo who harboured a huge crush on their Senior Uncle could not compare!
"Disciples greet Senior Uncle!" both of them cups their fists in front of Gong Sang Mo.
"Forego the formality," says Gong Sang Mo as he sits on a chair.
The two disciples hands them a cup of tea each.
"How is shifu doing?" asks Gong Sang Mo.
"Honorable Master is well. He has been saying that since you did not come during the summer, you will come during winter," replies one of the disciples.
Yun Qian Yu holds the cup in her palm, using it to warm her hand.
She looks at the two men who appears to be older than Gong Sang Mo by a couple of years. They do not appear awkward calling Gong Sang Mo 'Senior Uncle' at all. In fact, they sound completely respectful. Gong Sang Mo himself seems to think nothing of it, clearly used to this kind of situation.
Ji Shu Liu notices Yun Qian Yu's expression and whispers, "This is nothing, there will be more surprises in store for you later."
"Why does it seem like you are very familiar with Mount San Xian?" asks Yun Qian Yu curiously.
"I am Su Huai Feng's best friend, I visit him every year," replies Su Huai Feng.
"Are you a generation lower than Gong Sang Mo?" asks Yun Qian Yu in surprise.
"I am not even from Mount San Xian, so those generations and what not does not apply to me. Everything that I know are only passed from other people," shrugs Ji Shu Liu uncaringly.
Yun Qian Yu looks at Ji Shu Liu with her eyebrows raised; he indeed does not seem to be someone who will let himself be bound by rules.
"Aren't you worried that I am also here to recruit Su Huai Feng?" asks Ji Shu Liu, also with raised eyebrows.
"Are you that keen to have that bad of a reputation?" replies Yun Qian Yu without even looking at him.
The corner of Ji Shu Liu's lips twitches; must she be so direct?
He sips on the tea, which warms his mouth.
When the people in the kitchen found out that Gong Sang Mo is here, they immediately cook a couple of bowls of hot noodles and sends them over.
"Quick and eat some noodle soup, Senior Uncle. It will warm you up real quick!" One of the disciples serves him a bowl.
Gong Sang Mo gives that bowl to Yun Qian Yu, "Yu Er, eat some noodles!"
Yun Qian Yu turns to face him, suddenly hungry when she sees that steaming bowl of noodle soup.
The disciples look at the scene in disbelief. One of them quickly hands Gong Sang Mo another bowl.
They are also pretty acquainted with Ji Shu Liu who is friends with their Senior Brother Su. Ji Shu Liu comes every year to visit that Senior Brother of theirs.
Feng Ran, Chen Xiang, San Qiu and the others also eat along with them.
Now that they are full, it suddenly does not seem that cold anymore.
After eating the noodles, Gong Sang Mo made sure that Yun Qian Yu is properly wrapped once again before continuing the journey. There is no place to stay the night here, one only has one choice: climb the mountain. It does not matter who one is or what time they arrived.
The group of people brave the cold wind as they climb the pathway.
As they climb up the mountain, Yun Qian Yu sees a huge jade archway, around 10 meters or so high. The words 'Celestial Mountain' are engraved on top of it. In the darkness, the gate appears like a solemn guardian to the snowy landscape.
Beyond the arch gate is where the long and steep staircase begins. The stone steps are not very wide, just enough for two people to climb side by side. The most surprising thing is, amidst the cold and snowy weather, not a clump of snow can be seen on the steps.
Yun Qian Yu uses her Zi Yu Xin Jing to measure the climb. She is now at the peak of the ninth level, only one step away from mastering the art completely. Even though she has not fully mastered it, it still provides her with a lot of unconventional advantages. For instance, the night vision that she is currently using to measure up the climb. Through that, she can see the steps stretching high up there, to the peak of the mountain that they cannot even see.
"There are 9,999 steps in total. Each and every steps will be cleaned everyday. That is a form of training for disciples. Cleaning the steps from top to bottom and then climbing up again is much better than training the normal way," says Gong Sang Mo as he casually strides forward.
All the people at the scene right now are proficient in martial arts. If they use qinggong, they will be able to climb to the top within 15 minutes. However, Mount San Xian has a rule. One must climb the steps one by one without using any power. If one dares to cheat their way up, someone will ruthlessly kick them down in return.
This is one of the reasons why Mount San Xian's disciples are famous for the qinggong skill.
"To tell the truth, it is very enjoyable to climb these steps in the summer. There will be leaves on the steps. Grasses will grow everywhere. You will find wildflowers that you don't even know existed. There will be birds chirping around from the trees. What a sight it would be!"continues Gong Sang Mo.
From the way he speaks, Yun Qian Yu can tell that he has a lot of affection for this place.
Her heart sinks when she remembers what he did to Long Xiang Luo.
She has a feeling that she is missing something; that Gong Sang Mo has done even more for her, things that he did not tell her.
"No one is allowed to use their inner power to climb these steps," reminds Gong Sang Mo, hinting her to stop using Zi Yu Xin Jing for her night-vision.
He takes out a Ye Ming pearl from his sleeve. Ever since that incident in Tian En Temple, Yun Qian Yu told him that they should bring a Ye Ming pearl with them wherever they go, and it seems like he has taken her words heavily.
San Qiu takes it from him and leads the way, lighting the steps for them.
After two hours, they finally reach Mount San Xian's peak.
Yun Qian Yu stands rooted in her spot, looking at her magnificent surrounding in shock. This place looks like a celestial land.
Gong Sang Mo smiles, "How is it? Do you like it?"
She turns to him, "I did not expect it to look like this."
Turns out that the peak of Mount San Xian is a hollow valley. The houses are built using smooth stones. There are multiple floors to the buildings, looking very much like a very very large castle city from the old west.
"There weren't originally this many buildings here, but the number of disciples grew when First Senior Brother and Third Senior Brother started taking in disciples, so the number of buildings grew too. The people here made these buildings themselves. The farther a house is, the more experienced the builder is, which means, the better looking the house will be."
"Did you build your own house as well," asks Yun Qian Yu as she looks at the houses that are being covered with snow.
"No, my three Senior Brothers built it for me. I was only 5 years old then, too young. My Senior Brothers could not bear to make me do it myself," smiles Gong Sang Mo.
"Senior Uncle!" Since the day is dark, there are not many people outside. The few people that are loitering outside greets Gong Sang Mo respectfully. He simply nods at them.
"Doesn't that make you feel old?" Yun Qian Yu cannot help but ask when an old man with white beard also calls Gong Sang Mo 'Senior Uncle'.
Gong Sang Mo laughs heartily, "No, I am already used to it."
"He has been called Senior Uncle by people in their thirties when he was only 5 years old, do you think he will feel old?" quips Ji Shu Liu.
"Right," the corner of Yun Qian Yu's lips twitches.
"Sang Mo is back!"
Someone finally addresses Gong Sang Mo the normal way. Yun Qian Yu excitedly turns to look at the incoming person. She stares at him, stunned. That white long beard, that white cotton robe. This old man looks like a standard celestial figure from story books. Is this Gong Sang Mo's shifu, Sheng Xue Tian Zun?
"Eldest Senior Brother!" smiles Gong Sang Mo as he greets the man in familiarity.
So this is Gong Sang Mo's Eldest Senior Brother, Qing Yuan Xian?
Yun Qian Yu's head spins a little. If this is the Eldest Senior Brother, just how old will the shifu be? Old to the point where he can't walk? This never even crossed Yun Qian Yu's mind until now.
Ji Shu Liu greets the man as well, "Shu Liu greets Qing Yuan Xian."
"Are you here to visit Huai Feng, Shu Liu?" asks Qing Yuan Xian in familiarity.
"This time, Shu Liu is here to escort Princess Hu Guo. But yes, Shu Liu is also here to see Huai Feng," replies Ji Shu Liu.
Only then does Qing Yuan Xian notices Yun Qian Yu's presence.
"Qian Yu greets Eldest Senior Brother," greets Yun Qian Yu politely.
"You are Yun Qian Yu?" Qing Yuan Xian strokes his beard while looking at Yun Qian Yu. Then, he looks at Gong Sang Mo.
"Yes," Yun Qian Yu raises her eyebrows. What does he mean by that question?
"Shifu is waiting for you all. Hurry and go," says Qing Yuan Xian, urging them to meet Sheng Xue Tian Zun.
Gong Sang Mo smiles warmly, "Sang Mo will bring Qian Yu to meet Shifu then, Eldest Senior Brother."
"Go on!" Qing Yuan Xian brushes his sleeves before turning around and walking away.
Ji Shu Liu also left to see Su Huai Feng.
Gong Sang Mo pulls Yun Qian Yu by the hand and walks on. They walk past buildings that are slowly getting bigger before stopping in front of the biggest palace of them all.
"San Qiu, take the rest to my place first."
San Qiu leads Chen Xiang and the rest to a palace nearby, smaller than this one, but bigger than most around.
When it is only the two of them left, Yun Qian Yu whispers, "Sang Mo, just how old is your teacher?"
"Shifu was 93 years old when he took me in back then," replies Gong Sang Mo while smiling.
"Huh," Yun Qian Yu mentally begins to calculate his age. Gong Sang Mo entered the sect when he was 5 years old, now he is already 18 years old. Doesn't that mean that Sheng Xue Tian Zun is now 106 years old? He is close to being a celestial now!
"Shifu is very kind and very easy to get along," explains Gong Sang Mo.
"Oh," replies Yun Qian Yu. The entire experience today feels like a dream.
"Don't worry, I am here," says Gong Sang Mo softly.
Yun Qian Yu is taken aback to hear that. She is not worried at all, she is only experiencing a little cultural shock.
Gong Sang Mo pinches her small nose before saying, "Let's go!"
Both of them enter the palace hand-in-hand.
The furnitures inside are made of rock; from the chairs to the tables, and even the bookshelves.
No one is inside. Yun Qian Yu frowns curiously.
Gong Sang Mo continues walking and leads her to a door. He pushes open the door and promptly walks inside.
The door leads them to a long stone-walled corridor. At the end of the corridor is another door that leads to a large hall. The furnitures are similar to the ones outside, just there is a furnace and a bed here. A really old man with white hair and beard is sitting on top of one of the stone chairs. He is wearing a really large white robe.
His burning eyes are trained on Gong Sang Mo and Yun Qian Yu.
Gong Sang Mo leads Yun Qian Yu and kowtows in front of the old man, "This disciple greets shifu."
Sheng Xue Tian Zun does not speak and continues looking at the two of them.
This is the first time Yun Qian Yu has ever kneeled. Despite Sheng Xue Tian Zun not speaking and thereby not letting them stand back up, she does not appear indignant at all. In fact, she simply remains kowtowing without as much as moving.
After a while, Sheng Xue Tian Zun's deep voice can be heard saying, "Get up."
Both of them stands back up.
Gong Sang Mo picks up a kettle of boiling water near the furnace and pour it into a cup of tea. Then, he presents the cup to Sheng Xue Tian Zun and puts it on the table.
All these while, Sheng Xue Tian Zun's eyes has been on Yun Qian Yu.. She meets his eyes fearlessly and lets him assess her.
She can tell that his gaze does not have any desire in them, they are as clean and pure as the snow on this mountain. She likes people like him.
The joy in her eyes are registered by Sheng Xue Tian Zun.
"Sit down," he simply says.