When a small pair of wings suddenly sprouted out of her back—even though they were a part of her, they definitely hurt the same way a normal kid’s growing pains did. She probably hadn’t been able to find Muchun Zhenren, or her first senior brother who was busy acting up, or even her fourth senior brother who had buried himself in memorizing the sect rules, so the only person she could grievously weep to was Cheng Qian.
Cheng Qian held Puddle’s wings and observed them carefully for a few minutes, discovering that her wings were perfectly attached to her body. The only problem was that they looked kind of like chicken wings. A worry formed his mind: if master saw them, would he ask the cooks to make grilled chicken wings for a month on end?
“It’s nothing to cry about. They’re a gift from your mother.” Cheng Qian clumsily picked her up, feeling that the girl seemed to have lost quite much weight—or at least, she wasn’t as heavy as she looked.
Did her body get lighter after a part of it changed into a bird?
Normally, a good number of years of cultivation was required for monsters to change into human shape. Cheng Qian had caught a few glimpses of records about monster cultivators, but he just carelessly skimmed through them as if they were short stories since they didn’t have any actual use to him.
Since Puddle was half-human and half-monster, she should have the inherent ability to change between human and monster forms, but he wasn’t sure if she could freely do so as she wished.
Cheng Qian leveled his line of sight with little Puddle’s, trying to say to her in a mild tone, “I don’t know what to do, but you should try concentrating. Just focus on making them smaller and hide them… ‘hide’, you know? Hey, Junior Sister, can you understand human language?”
Puddle stared at him with big innocent eyes, making it hard to tell whether she understood it or not. But seeing her muddled expression, Cheng Qian was prepared to believe that she didn’t understand anything.
He let out a heavy sigh. “Forget it, I’ll take you to find master.”
Puddle flapped over his arms, muttering “ah ah”. Then she clenched her fist, face reddening and eyes crossing from holding the breath.
Just when Cheng Qian thought she could deal with it herself, the small wings on Puddle’s back suddenly extended to seven or eight Chi long with a swishing sound. Feathers went all over the floor, and Cheng Qian was nearly slapped in the face by the enlargement of her wings.
Cheng Qian stared in astonishment at his junior sister who had changed into a giant bird. The back of Puddle’s clothes had been torn apart by her wings; luckily she was still at the age of wearing open pants. But that pair of wings was indeed too big, and the girl carrying them was so small that she almost couldn’t be seen amidst those wings. She looked like a large moth floating in the air—a truly weird scene.
Cheng Qian recovered from his shock and gazed in dismay at Puddle. “I asked you to make them smaller, not bigger!”
The little girl that Cheng Qian could have lifted with a sole hand had now become extremely heavy because of her giant wings. If he hadn’t been practicing swordplay for as long as he had, he would’ve hardly been able to carry her.
Puddle looked at him innocently. She swayed in Cheng Qian’s arms, unable to keep her back straight because of the weight of the wings.
They still needed to find Master for help. Cheng Qian strenuously held her and walked toward the outside. However… Together, they got stuck in the door of Qing’an Dwelling.
Cheng Qian: “…”
Perhaps a girl of any age would never love to face the fact that she was stuck in the door and couldn’t get out. Puddle wasn’t a baby who cried often, but now looking injuredly at her wings, she cried out loud.
Normal kids could cry as they wanted, but Puddle’s cry had the power of collapsing houses.
Cheng Qian was caught in a terrible mess. He tried his best to keep his balance and talk with her at the same time. “Having big wings doesn’t mean you’re fat… really. There, there, stop crying, try folding your wings. F-O-L-D, understood?”
Puddle looked at him, sobbing and sniffing. At Cheng Qian’s comforting words, she gradually stopped tears.
Cheng Qian was temporarily relieved, harboring the distant hope that she had really understood this time.
But then his little junior sister astounded him by fully spreading her wings. She tried flapping her wings and, after activating some kind of hidden instinct, slowly rose into the air.
Her huge wings caused a whirlwind, blowing great clouds of dust into the sky. Several delicate orchids in the yard suffered, tilting topsy-turvy in the wind and sand. Cheng Qian couldn’t open his eyes, and only felt that his clothes had been caught by a pair of hands.
Puddle’s plump hands turned into claws which tightly clutched Cheng Qian. Cheng Qian immediately had a premonition.
And the next second, his premonition came true.
He was lifted into the sky by the mighty Puddle. His heart sank. Cheng Qian’s first instinct was to struggle, but as she was flying higher and higher, he didn’t dare to move anymore and only shouted his junior sister’s formal name in the roaring wind. “Han Tan! Put me down!”
Puddle shut her ears to his screaming… even if she heard, she didn’t seem to understand.
Never had Cheng Qian imagined that his very first experience of riding on clouds would happen like this. He wanted to laugh and weep all at once. He couldn’t help wondering if, even though he had escaped death in the Demon Valley, he was going to end up dying after all under his own junior sister’s claws.
With him in tow, Puddle flew over the gate of the Qing’an Dwelling and above the green-as-jade bamboo forest. Eventually, the entire Fuyao Mountain had disappeared beneath their feet.
Cheng Qian looked down at the panorama of a sweeping mountain ridge dyed in emerald green. On one side of the ridge was a slight slope softly drenched in light, while on the other side was a deep and gloomy valley hidden in the shadow of the mountains.
Countless caves and empty yards loomed along the mountains. Some had steles at the entrance, some had statues, and some had none. In the passage of thousands of years, people came and went, serving as the links between past and future. Those cultivation methods and all other records were buried deep in the Library as the blood and bones of history. They were probably the products of those almighty beings, talents, persons of virtues, or even villains…
But now, they were all no more.
The whole Fuyao Sect had only a weasel master left with several naughty apprentices, hiding behind the world of mortals. Only the whirlwind(Fuyao) was still spiraling up to the sky.
At this height the wind blew keenly, the sharp edge biting Cheng Qian. However, he gradually lost the haunting fear that had plagued him at first.
Cheng Qian exhaled a breath, letting it go together with the hatred that had smouldered in his heart for years.
He thought once again of Lord Beiming, and then of his parents who, probably, were counting the little money they had somewhere in the remote hinterland. Suddenly, he clearly understood the secret wishes that he had hidden in the depths of his heart.
Why did he aspire to be someone like Lord Beiming?
If someday he became an almighty being who freely traveled around the world, and to whom all creatures cowered and all human beings knelt… would his parents feel regretful when he returned home?
Right now, as he floated amongst the clouds and watched the caves and yards fade into distance, Cheng Qian’s boggled heart suddenly emptied.
Their mortal lifetime only had thirty or fifty years left. Even if he incessantly schemed to return a slap to his parents’ faces now, what would happen then?
Perhaps they would have already ceased to exist by the time he actually achieved something.
Or perhaps they would still be alive. But after more than half a lifetime had passed, even if they felt regret over the child they had sent away in the early years, would there be anything left other than regret?
If he had really been special to them, why would they have sent him away so ruthlessly?
In the first place there hadn’t been any affection for him, much less something like lingering guilt or hoping for his forgiveness.
Cheng Qian suddenly relaxed his taut shoulders, throwing himself at the mercy of his junior sister.
He realized that the hatred he’d considered as profound to him, was by all means unfounded.
There was a wall breaking down in Cheng Qian’s heart. In an instant, he heard the murmurs in the Fuyao Mountain again, like what he heard when first senior brother fell into meditation. But this time, those currents of air didn’t brush past him; they ran into his body like rivers emptying into the sea.
Without catching or tarrying, the currents came and went like happiness and worries. They swirled into a circle, connecting Cheng Qian’s body with the world as if he had always been a part of it.
It was hard to say how long had passed when the cry of a crane sounded. A white crane soared up into the sky from Fuyao Mountain and circled around them. The sniveling Puddle who had gotten lost in the air followed the crane and flew downwards through instinct. Led by the crane, she landed before the Unknown Hall, Muchun’s residence.
Cheng Qian had still been in a trance when his feet touched the ground.
Muchun Zhenren helped Puddle out when she’d gotten stuck again in the gate of the Unknown Hall. After he caressed her wings, the wings were wrapped in some unknown power and eventually shrank into her body, leaving a pair of red birthmarks on her back.
Muchun didn’t wake Cheng Qian up. He stood aside and waited, cuddling the fast-asleep Puddle. When the sun set to the other side of the mountain, Cheng Qian finally came back to himself, realizing that his legs had gone numb from standing.
Muchun Zhenren took a windproof lantern off from the gate and gave it to Cheng Qian to light his way back. “It’s too late today, you can go back. Tomorrow you can stay to learn charms with your first senior brother after the swordplay practice.”
Cheng Qian did a double-take when master said that. Surprised and muddleheaded, he asked, “Master, was… Was that energy feel?”
Muchun Zhenren nodded, beaming. “I was right about you. Of all my apprentices, your aptitude is the best.”
Was that “of all my apprentices” really necessary?
Cheng Qian didn’t know how to respond to this. Anyway, he didn’t feel proud hearing his evaluation—if his excellent aptitude was the result of comparing him with Yan Zhengming, Li Yun and Han Yuan, he didn’t think this was something he could boast about.
Watching his figure walking steadily along the mountain path, Muchun Zhenren had a bittersweet mood. After all these years, he finally had an apprentice who was willing to make efforts. Stroking the crane’s graceful neck, he said to himself, “If his martial brothers knew that, would they be stimulated?”
The white crane rubbed him and flew away, as if telling the sect leader—what are you wishfully dreaming about!?