This chapter is very long but it's very beautiful. It's pretty obvious that I'm a huge Chi You and A'Heng fan, and I think Xiao Yao is a lot like her mother, she needs a little push before she allows herself to fall for someone. While A'Heng, I think, was slowly softening towards Chi You in the earlier chapters, it is in this chapter where like the vines that grows and entwines itself around the huge oak tree, she allows her heart to become attached, even if she is not just Xi Ling Heng, even if she is the princess of the Xuan Yuan Tribe, Xuan Yuan Ba.
Chapter 8: The Oak Tree, The Hundred Angled Vine (Part 1 of 3)
A'Heng did not close her eyes the whole night, when the morning arrived she was finally so tired that she fell asleep. When she awoke later she was surprised that they have reached Bo Xi mountain, Ah Bi had stopped in a mountain valley.
A'Heng sat up straight, she reached out to touch Chi You who was by her side, the touch was burning, his injuries were increasingly serious.
A'Heng looked at the four surroundings, it was all dense luxuriant forested mountains, she did not understand, she asked Lie Yang who stood on the tree tops, "Did Chi You tell you where to go? Are you lost?"
Lie Yang was extremely displeased that A'Heng dared to suspect him, he gave a squawk and straightened his wings, slashed towards A'Heng in one big stroke, and turned around.
A'Heng was deeply worried, she did not know any medical skills, they needed to find someone who had medical skills to take care of Chi You. She suddenly heard voices from afar, she decided to go check.
She walked in front, Ah Bi carried Chi You behind, Lie Yang proudly stood above Ah Bi.
They passed a mountain depression, A'Heng's eyes lit up.
The rolling and rising two green hills, a great river undulated out of the mountain valley, the rays from the setting sun fell at a low angle onto the mountain, causing the opposing mountain to be shone brownish gold, the mountain winds blew, the tree leaves shook, the entire mountain seemed to be shining like gold.
The wide great river also seemed to shimmer with gold flakes, a group of fishermen were on a wooden raft, trying to catch fish, with a lift of their arms, the silver net flew high, then slowly landed into the great river. Although it was clearly an ordinary net, but the entire net shone with a silverish light, combining with the golden glow shimmering on the great river, the entire sight was bedazzling, it was even more beautiful than the moon silk that her mother weaved.
The fishermen loudly cried signals together, as they sang the work song, they coordinated to carry the net, the fishes in the fish net jumped up in horror, their tails flipping in mid-air, the water droplets splattering, the sun light reflecting, it seemed like the entire great river was shining with seven colours.
It was so effortful and difficult, but it was also so lively and bustling.
A'Heng watched until she was dazed, she unconsciously stopped her pace.
In the midst of the fishes' jumping, the fishermen were overjoyed with their catch, as a young male pulled in the net, he sang a loud and joyous song, his wild and rugged voice echoed far away in the mountain valleys.
"The sun is settling in the mountain, there is an abundant catch of fish, I sing a mountain song to check your intentions, the water flows down from the high mountains, the oak tree teases the hornet nest. The girls at the opposing side are picking mulberries, they are carrying a basket as they forage the whole mountain, give a cry my lovely maiden, your gentleman misses you...*"
Even before the fisherman's song finished, a bright and clear female's voice rang from the mountain.
"The gentleman is the oak tree on the mountain, the maiden is the hundred angled vine that entangles around its trunk.** I am not afraid that the gentleman of my heart stands high, I grab your legs and I will reach you, after I have twined you tired, then will I loosen the ropes..."
Because she was covered by the mountain forest, the maiden could not be seen, but the passion in her voice was like fire that got carried down with the song and burned down from the mountain to the great river.
The fishermen all broke into greater laughter, the young man who was singing had a look of joy and satisfaction in his face.
"I am not afraid that the gentleman of my heart stands high, I grab your legs and I will reach you, after I have twined you tired, then I will loosen the ropes." A'Heng silently reflected, then she realised the underlying meaning of the words, in an instant her face was red, this was the first time she realised that the matters between men and women could be expressed so boldly.
She realised where they must have reached, a place so pure and simple, so passionate and fierce. Legend has it, there was an uncivilised wild place in the wilderness, it was called Jiu Li, it was said that the mountains were very tall, the males were as strong as the mountains, the women were beautiful like rivers.
A'Heng ordered Ah Bi to first hide with Chi You, she followed the mountain song and the small mountain path up the mountain.
Blocks of bamboo houses were built following the mountain's contours, the back leaning on the mountain, the front facing the water***, the first floor was left empty, so that the family's animals can hide from the wind and rain, the second floor was where people lived, there was a balcony where plants and flowers grew or where the fishes and prey were dried in the sun, at this time the roofs of the houses had smoke, this was the time when everyone came home after a busy day of work.
Because of A'Heng's different dressing, an old man pulling a cow examined her, a young child carrying Zhu grass on his back laughed as he secretly peeked at her.
A white beard old man who was carrying a hoe and pulling a cow asked with a smile, "Maiden, are you a foreigner?"
A'Heng smiled and nodded her head, she asked, "Is this Jiu Li?"
The old man gave a hearty laugh, "This is where all my ancestors lived, we call this village De Wa Village****, we heard that the outsiders have given a name for the hundreds of mountains combined together, calling it Jiu Yi or Jiu Li, your purpose for coming here is...."
"I heard that in the mountains of Jiu Li there are quite a few herbs, I have specially come here to find a few specific herbs, "In these wilderness, there were very few people, A'Heng did not want to attract attention, she pretended to be a medicinal herb picker, this was a good identity to wander the wilderness.
The old man warmly welcomed A'Heng, "Do you have a place to stay? My son and grandson has gone hunting in the mountains, my house has an empty room, you can rest at my place."
A'Heng laughed and said, "Ok, thank you... grandfather."
The old man did not know that A'Heng was already a few hundred years old, he smiled and accepted A'Heng's respect, and brought her to his home.
"This is my granddaughter Mi Duo, she is nineteen this year, I don't know who is older." The old man bent at the fireplace, as he poured water, he smiled and looked at A'Heng and Mi Duo.
A'Heng quickly said, "I'm older, I'm older."
Mi Duo had already finished preparing food, seeing that there was a guest, she hurriedly left, in a moment, she brought a live fish back.
A'Heng asked De Wa Grandfather, "Who leads this village? Is there anyone who knows medicine?"
"Every village has its own leader. If you are asking for medical skills, you will have to seek the Tribe Witch, everyone in the hundred mountain villages here, which you call Jiu Li, will seek the Tribe Witch for sicknesses. Normally, when to plant, when to hunt, when to pay respect to the heavens, this is also decided by the Tribe Witch."
"Whose medical skills are the best?"
"Obviously it is the Head of the Tribe Witches, the Witch King, who knows everything," As De Wa Grandfather spoke, he placed his hand on his heart, he lowered his head, in respect and devotion.
"Can I meet the Witch King?"
De Wa Grandfather's expression appeared to have some difficulty, "I'm afraid it's not possible, but I can help you ask."
"Do you know where the Witch King lives?"
"Normally the Witch King lives in another mountain village, called Chi You village, Chi You village has a sacrificial stage, the Witch King needs to protect our sacred lands."
"Chi You village?"
De Wa Grandfather laughed, his face full of pride, "Chi You is the big hero of our tribe, it is said that hundreds of years ago, this big hero saved our whole tribe people, originally the mountain village was not called this, but to remember him it was changed to Chi You village."
A'Heng asked, "Where is Chi You village?"
De Wa Grandfather held a charcoal stick, as he drew he described which mountain Chi You village was at.
A'Heng smiled and stood up, she bid farewell to De Wa Grandfather.
De Wa Grandfather guessed what she was thinking, "I say Miss, Chi You village is far away, you have to cross a few mountains, why don't you have a good meal, have a good night's sleep, tomorrow morning you can start your journey with some food we will prepare for you and I will lead you there."
Mi Duo stood at the kitchen door, as she wiped her hands on her apron, she looked at A'Heng, A'Heng could see that in the kitchen was a feastful of dishes, for a poor mountain family, it was as if they were using their whole family's treasures to greet a guest.
A'Heng told De Wa Grandfather, "To be honest, I have an urgent matter to settle and I must go. Please eat first and leave the food that was prepared for me, I will definitely return tonight to eat Mi Duo's food."
De Wa Grandfather laughed, "Ok, I will warm up some vats of wine and wait for you to return."
A'Heng nodded her head to express her thanks.
When A'Heng just left De Wa Grandfather's house, she saw Lie Yang flew like a lightning to her, he was squawking continuously. A'Heng was shocked, if there was no real matter, Lie Yang will not be so anxious, she quickly followed after Lie Yang.
When Ah Bi saw A'Heng, he quickly ran towards her. A'Heng carried Chi You and saw that his face had turned green and his body was extremely cold, there was a strange smell in the air. She tore up his clothes and saw that the cut had turned black, the smell thickened.
Even if A'Heng did not know any medical skills, she knew that the cut should not appear like this, and there shouldn't be a strange smell emanating. To have such symptoms, Chi You must have been poisoned.
A'Heng used her divine energy to examine his pulse, she realised that Chi You's internal essence had been affected, she was so shocked that her body collapsed onto the ground.
This poison could not be from her Big Brother, although he was cruel, he was proud and he disdained the use of such things. The person who poisoned Chi You must be someone who was at his side. According to Yun Sang, in these last tens of years, the Yan Emperor had heavily used Chi You, every big and small government matter he had let Chi You be involved. When they attended the Jade Mountain, while Yun Sang was there, only Chi You handled the political matters, he was clearly becoming more powerful. Although A'Heng's basic nature was simple, she grew up in a royal family, so she naturally understood that the rise of Chi You had threatened other people's power and this must have created an incentive to murder him.
Who wanted to eliminate Chi You? Zhu Rong? Yu Wang? Gong Gong... or all of them?
A'Heng did not dare to think further, her Big Brother's warning rang in her ear, their father wanted to conquer the whole central plains, he would never allow her to be involved in the internal battles of the Sheng Nong tribe.
She carried Chi You and sat on Ah Bi's back, "Let's go."
Before the sky turned dark, A'Heng reached Chi You Village.
Once she entered this mountain village, she understood why this place was chosen for a stage to respect the heavens, if one saw the hundreds of mountains in Jiu Li as the dragon's backbone, then this was the dragon's head where all the dragon's energy congregated.
She had no need to ask where the Witch King lived, the entire mountain village consisted of bamboo houses, but there was one side where a stone house was carved out of a big white stone, like a fortress guarding the peak's divine essence.
A'Heng immediately walked to the white stone house.
A few young persons were busily working in the yard, their shoulders were bare, they wore loose pants, they did not wear shoes, they looked at A'Heng and did not turn their gaze away because of their lack of clothes, instead they looked curiously at her.
A twenty plus male walked over and asked, "Who are you looking for?"
A'Heng paid a respectful gesture to him, "I am seeking an audience with the Witch King."
The male watched her, his eyes were guarded, "The Witch King does not meet foreigners."
"I seek his medical skills."
The male laughed, "When you foreigners speak of us, you don't even use the derogatory term of Jiu Yi, you call us barbarians. How can we barbarians know of any medical skills? Miss, please return."
A'Heng knew that these tribe witch doctors were different from the villagers in the mountain, unlike the villagers, they were likely to have seen the outside world, hence they were especially guarded.
A'Heng helplessly said, "I must see the Witch King, sorry for the offence!" She quickly slipped passed the male, even before they reacted, she was running towards the white stone house.
"Catch her, quick catch her."
A group of people started to chase her, even more people came out of the house to stop her, A'Heng was like a small deer, agilely dodging all her chasers, she ran into the back mountain, and saw the simple but stern white sacrificial altar.
With one breath she rushed onto the sacrificial altar, she stood in the middle, smiled and turned back, all the tribe witches stopped, this was a sacred place, not all the tribe witches have the ability to enter.
They furiously glared at her, A'Heng crossed both of her arms and smiled, "Now will the Witch King see me?"
A white-haired long-robed old man held a crutch and came over, his eyes were strong and wise, "Lady, we are respectful to the heavens not because we are ignorant, but because we believe people should have a grateful and respectful heart, then the heavens and its creatures can peacefully co-exist."
A'Heng said, "Witch King, I stand here not to insult all of you, but I had to see you personally. Now that I have, I am relieved, I have a matter to ask of you, can you get the rest to leave us?"
"They are all my tribes people, you may speak."
A'Heng let out a breath, facing the mountain, she gave a whistle. With her whistle, a white shadow like a shooting star crossed the sky, and landed on the holy stage. It was a large snow bird with jade green proud eyes that disdainfully examined all the tribe witches.
The tribe witches felt even more infuriated. Some of the more senior tribe witches who could enter the sacrificial altar wanted to go and catch A'Heng, but the Witch King raised his hand to stopped them, indicating for them to carefully listen.
Suddenly a wind blew out of nowhere, the monster bone windchime hanging on the sacrificial altar rang clearly, at the start, the sound was small, but as the wind grew bigger, the ringing sound grew louder.
In the midst of the windchime crazily sounding "ding ding dang dang", a large black figure appeared in the middle of the sky, it was an extraordinarily beautiful big fox, following the direction of its wings, the entire sacrificial altar was blown by a strong wind.
The tribe witches gazed at the flying fox, their eyes dazed their mouths wide open, the white bird appeared to be disdainful of the fact that they were not agitated enough, he opened his mouth and blew out a blaze of fire, red, blue, yellow.... blaze after blaze of multi-coloured fire lit up the sky, like beautiful blooms of flowers, reflecting the whole sacrificial altar as if it was a heavenly palace, the girl in green robes stood right in the middle of this miraculous scenery.
The Witch King gave a few commands, the people surrounding the sacrificial altar immediately left, only leaving some of the more senior tribe witches.
The Witch King suspiciously asked, "Has the lady come from the god tribes? Why have you come?"
Ah Bi stopped at A'Heng's side, A'Heng carried Chi You who was lying on Ah Bi's back, "I don't know if the Witch King recognises him?"
After the Witch King saw Chi You's face, his expression completely changed, he knelt on the floor, his entire body agitatedly trembled, "How can I not recognise? Every generation of tribe witches have to first bow at his wooden statue before we become a tribe witch, we will have to swear before him to protect the freedom of these mountains, but, but.... I never dared to think that in my life I will be able to see the Great Chi You in person."
A'Heng said, "He is injured."
The Witch King anxiously knelt by Chi You's side and examined his injuries. From inside Chi You's body, he carefully took out a piece of broken blade, then carefully examined the injury, his expression worsened.
A'Heng was sitting on Ah Bi's back and planned to leave. The Witch King knew that A'Heng's origins was not ordinary, he quickly stopped her and said, "Please help our Great Chi You, his injury is very serious, the energy on the blade is extremely special, I have never seen such extraordinary blade energy, plus with the poison..."
A'Heng took the broken blade and looked at it, there was a Xuan bird pattern on the blade, this was the mark of Gao Xing's royal family. Remembering her identity, A'Heng's heart shuddered, she looked at the Witch King, "You want me to help him? The first time I helped him, I was imprisoned for sixty years, the second time I helped him, I betrayed my Big Brother." She lifted up the sword, "This sword was forged by my fiance, his skills are very good, Chi You's injury will definitely not heal easily; this sword is my Big Brother's personal weapon, he personally stabbed this into Chi You's chest."
The Witch King's face whitened, he dazedly looked at A'Heng, A'Heng asked, 'Now, do you still want me to help?"
The Witch King immediately shook his head, A'Heng said, "Good." She patted Ah Bi and Ah Bi carried her away in the sky, the windchimes at the four corner of the sacrificial altar started to ring "ding ding dang dang" again.
Hearing the windchime, A'Heng started to become distracted, when she was on the Jade Mountain, the windchime she hung on the roof eaves was exactly the same as these windchimes, she remembered the long sixty years, the only colour appeared to be from Chi You's letters.
As she stroke Ah Bi's head, she said, "The people in the wilderness secretly call the Jiu Yi's Witch King as the Poison King, he definitely will be able to save Chi You, I don't even know any medical skills, even if I stayed I would not be able to help. Am I right, Ah Bi?"
No one answered her, the only one she had to convince was herself.
When A'Heng returned to De Wa Village, De Wa Grandfather and Mi Duo had only just finished dinner.
A'Heng said, "I have come for dinner."
Mi Duo happily went to warm up the food, De Wa Grandfather laughed, "Tomorrow I will speak to the village head to bring you to Chi You village."
"It's ok, I have settled my matter, I don't need to go to Chi You village anymore."
"Ah, that is good."
Jiu Yi's people were good at brewing wine, the wine they brewed was strong and pure, A'Heng had an extraordinarily rich dinner.
While speaking, A'Heng realised that Mi Duo's age was quite old and she should have married long ago, but because her mother was sick and laid in bed all the time, all the family matters were handed by Mi Duo, hence she did not marry.
Mi Duo gave A'Heng her room to sleep, this was the best room in the entire house.
A'Heng had already experienced the warm hospitality of the Jiu Yi tribe people, they will always give their best to their guests, so she did not refuse and accepted the kind gesture.
After washing up, A'Heng sat in the balcony to dry her hair.
Under the dark blue sky, there hung the light new moon. The night wind blew from the mountains, carrying the light scent of grass and trees, not far away the spring water flowed, ding ding dang dang, like the song of nature.
A man came down from the mountains, he sat on a big rock next to the river, and started to blow his bamboo pipe.
The door in the bamboo house opened, Mi Duo quickly ran to the river side, in a while, A'Heng saw that the two of them were hugging by the river.
She could roughly discern their conversation.
"Did the guest like the fish I caught?"
"Very much, she kept complimenting that it was delicious."
"It is because you cooked it well."
Both of them hugged each other and walked up the mountains.
A'Heng could not help laughing, she gazed at the tall mountains faraway and thought, the man was like the oak tree, the maiden like the hundred angled vine, the tree protected the vine, the vine entwined the tree, they accompanied each other through the winds and rains, never to part.
Coughing sounds and the sounds of drinking water travelled from the neighbouring room.
De Wa Grandfather was awake! He knew that his granddaughter had secretly went out for a rendezvous with a man?
A'Heng was slightly troubled then she understood. The mutual likings of a man and a woman was originally the most natural thing in the lands, only here it had maintained its original appearance.
She did not know why but Chi You's figure floated before her eyes, so Chi You grew up in such a mountain? Could he fish? Did he know how to sing the love songs of the mountain? Who did he sing them to?
A'Heng nestled herself in the natural ease of the mountains and entered her dreams.
*Like in the korean context, where "Oppa" means brother and also your boyfriend/lover. The literal words being used is "older brother" and "younger sister" but I decided to change it to gentleman and maiden in the translation so it doesn't seem incestuous? Haha.
** Haha, omg this mountain duet is epic. Also, it reveals the underlying meaning and metaphor of this title, the man is the oak tree and the maiden is the hundred angled vine. But I think the meaning is also more complicated than just that for in Chapter 6, we have seen time and time again that it was Chi You who entangles A'Heng with his vines instead! A'Heng for his and her own sakes had to bit her lip and cut off the tendrils Chi You tried to hold her back with, but Chi You is relentless - he went to Chao Yun peak and sought to entwine her again! Haha. Now that we have arrived in Chi You's hometown, we see where Chi You leant this courtship ritual......
*** Actually, this structure is ideal following traditional fengshui principles.
**** The De in De Wa Village refers to heart and morality (which is interesting if you consider how the outsiders think these people are uncouth), it is also quite a revealing name once you realise what the village teaches A'Heng during her stay.
Comments: This chapter was difficult to translate because it was incredibly lengthy... and yet I felt this chapter was so integral to the story that I bit my lip and translated every single word. In each step, each word, I could feel the struggle in A'Heng's heart. Is Chi You the vine entwining her, or has she herself became the vine that entangled Chi You?