Chapter 696: Wushang Village (II)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The white fog was thick and deep. Occasionally, someone’s foot would knock a stone over a cliff. The long pause until the sound of its impact could be heard left all the members of the party shocked. Only Wang Chong remained unperturbed, confidently leading the way as though this was his own home.
Gao Feng and Nie Yan closely followed behind Wang Chong, growing increasingly astonished all the while. This fog was so thick that it was impossible to see which direction was which or make out any kind of object. Yet Wang Chong was not panicked in the slightest.
It was like he always knew where he was going, without even needing to see his feet.
After some time, the fog around them began to fade. Gao Feng and Nie Yan inwardly rejoiced, as they knew that they were about to leave the bounds of the fog.
“Hmph, none of them are working, and yet they send me to dig. Are they not afraid that I’ll get captured?”
The grumbling voice of a girl came out of the dispersing fog, coupled with the sound of someone kicking stones.
“Lord Marquis, this is?”
The party members turned to Wang Chong.
“Don’t say anything, just follow.”
At the sound of this familiar voice, the smile on Wang Chong’s face only widened. Stepping on the fine and sharp mountain rocks, he walked toward the sound. The grumbling voice of the girl grew louder and louder, clearer and clearer.
“Digging every day, digging when the sun is up, digging when the moon is up!
“Stupid hoe! Stupid hoe!
“Oh no! This a problem—the hoe handle broke.
“Uh-oh, I can’t let Grandpa or the others know. Stupid, stupid Grandpa…”
The prattling girl’s voice grew closer and closer, and by now, even the ten-some subordinates Wang Chong had brought with him for this excursion could hear it. Their expressions were odd, both suspicious and curious.
Wang Chong paid no attention to the looks on the faces of his subordinates. By following that voice, it took only a few moments for Wang Chong to see a girl of eight or nine years old, her hair tied into two braids, a bamboo herb basket larger than her body on her back. She was sitting on a large and barren stone, next to which a massive pine tree grew.
The girl had her back to Wang Chong, so Wang Chong couldn’t see what she looked like, but he could hear loud and clear that her mutterings were brimming with discontent.
As he watched, the sound of a breaking stone came from behind him. The girl, who had been just kicking her legs out as she sat under the pine tree, jumped up in fright at the sound. She immediately slid down the rock and looked behind her.
At this moment, Wang Chong finally caught sight of her face. This little girl who seemed to be carved from jade was rather different from the girl in his memories, though there was still some of that girl’s likeness present.
The girl was carrying that big basket on her back, one of her hands holding a broken wooden handle while the other hand gripped half of an herb hoe. While she had been complaining, she probably broke it in her carelessness.
The girl’s face was filled with fear as she saw Wang Chong and that group of strangers behind him. She ran off, hollering as she went.
“Uncle Qi, Uncle Jiu, it’s bad! Bad people have come in!”
The girl’s age belied her agility and speed as she screamed. The moment her two feet hit the ground, she immediately lunged off the rock, her body flying over the ground. With a single leap, she had covered six or seven zhang, and then she was off through the mountains like a civet cat.
When she next appeared, she was already twenty or thirty zhang away.
And all this had happened in the blink of an eye.
“This… is this girl a human or a ghost?”
“She looks to be only eight or nine. How can she be so fast?”
Gao Feng, Nie Yan, and the other elite soldiers behind Wang Chong were dumbfounded. The speed and dexterity this girl displayed were at least at the True Martial realm, and yet she was not even in her teens!
The girl and her large basket were on the verge of vanishing. But Wang Chong was in no rush, not heading off in pursuit. He only asked a question.
“Xiaoyan, why are you running?”
At these words, the dexterous form of the girl rapidly fading into the distance suddenly trembled as if it had been struck by lightning. Her body seemed to almost impossibly come to a sudden stop.
“Are you calling me?”
The girl peeked out from behind a rock, looking in disbelief at Wang Chong.
Wang Chong nodded and smiled.
“What did you call me just now?”
The girl’s face was filled with surprise.
“Are you not called Xiaoyan?” Wang Chong said.
“How did you know my name?”
The girl’s eyes went wide, and she no longer seemed intent on running. Standing around twenty zhang away next to a pile of rocks, she stared at Wang Chong. Her round eyes carefully sized up Wang Chong and his followers.
She had never encountered a situation like this. These were all strangers that she had never seen before, and yet they actually knew her name.
“I don’t just know that your name is Xiaoyan. I also know that you have a pet called Luoluo, a red fox with snow-white claws.”
Wang Chong smiled and seated himself down on the rock that the girl had just recently vacated.
The girl’s eyes opened even wider. She threw off the large basket and sat down on the pile of rocks. At this moment, her curiosity toward Wang Chong had suppressed everything, including her fear.
She was secretly raising a white-clawed fox, and only the people in the village knew of this, but not even the people in the village knew that this fox was called Luoluo. Just how did this stranger know?
“How did you know about my Luoluo?”
The girl’s eyes twinkled, completely captivated by this stranger.
She truly didn’t change one bit.
Wang Chong inwardly smiled. She was just as curious as he remembered.
“Didn’t your grandfather ask you to gather herbs? Have you gathered them?” Wang Chong asked, changing the subject.
“Hmph, a bunch of baddies! They only know how to bully me. There’s only rocks here! Where am I going to dig up wujian grass?” The moment Wang Chong mentioned it, the girl remembered her task today and started to fume, her foot lashing out at a nearby rock.
This casual kick sent that rock that was about the size of a human head sixty or seventy zhang. This sight caused the eyes of Gao Feng, Nie Yan, and the ten-some other guards to widen in shock.
This little girl had an astounding strength.
“You need wujian grass? That’s not easy to find. Feng Mu, bring it over.”
“Yes, Lord Marquis.”
With this voice, a tall and muscular guard appeared, dragging a large chest behind him.
Wang Chong raised a hand, ordering the guard to open the box. In an instant, a box stuffed with herbs appeared before everyone’s eyes.
The girl’s eyes shone at the sight of the box. She lunged over, completely forgetting that Wang Chong and his followers weren’t from the village.
“Wow! Wujian grass! It really is wujian grass! How did you know that I needed to gather wujian grass? Haha, this is great! With this much wujian grass, I won’t need to leave the house for the next three months.”
The girl excitedly snatched two handfuls of wujian grass and gave a laugh that sounded like the ringing of silver bells.
Wang Chong couldn’t help but smile as well.
Before the calamity, Wushang Village was actually very xenophobic. The surprise failure of Li Siye’s recruitment operation made Wang Chong remember this and realize that this operation would not proceed as he easily as he had imagined.
The stronger the faction, the harder it was for them to submit to someone else. If the Wushang were that easy to subdue, the otherworldly invaders wouldn’t have suffered so many casualties, and the fifty or sixty thousand Wushang wouldn’t have dwindled to not even one-tenth that number.
But there was no soil in the world that was not ruled by someone. Since the Wushang still lived on the Central Plains, they had to accept the mobilization orders from the Imperial Court. As long as the method was appropriate, it wasn’t impossible to recruit the Wushang.
The girl called Fang Xiaoyan before him was crucial to this effort.
The Wushang were so xenophobic that they would immediately attack strangers without even asking why they had come. Many people ended up failing at only this first stage.
But Wang Chong knew that there was a pivotal character in Wushang Village that one could use to gain the good graces and acknowledgment of the Wushang, and this character was Fang Xiaoyan.
Wang Chong had chosen to enter through the thin strip of sky not merely because the terrain there was easier to traverse, but also because he knew that Fang Xiaoyan would be gathering herbs there.
Wang Chong chuckled and said, “I’ll give this wujian grass to you.
“Oh, that’s right, can you bring me to see your grandfather?”
“You know my grandpa?”
The girl tilted her head, he brow furrowing in shock.
Wang Chong shook his head.
The girl raised her head and said, “Then I can’t bring you in. My grandpa said to me that I’m not allowed to bring strangers into the village.”
“Although I don’t know your grandfather, I have a friend with your grandfather. Can you take me to see him?”
Wang Chong smiled and rubbed her head.
A doubtful look appeared in her eyes, but she quickly squinted in comfort, apparently enjoying the feeling of her head being rubbed.
“Friend… Grandpa… friend is where Grandpa is… Grandpa’s friend! Then you’re Grandpa’s friend! No wonder you know so much, even about my Luoluo.” The girl suddenly seemed to understand something, her eyes opening wide as she grinned.
“If you’re Grandpa’s friend, then there’s no problem at all. Let’s go! I’ll take you to see Grandpa.”
As the girl spoke, she lifted the iron chest and placed it on her shoulder like it weighed nothing. Turning, she began to walk away, leaving Gao Feng, Nie Yan, and the others to look on in astonishment.