The road leading out of the interior of the mountain is bumpy and it was fortunate that they were able to escape safely. If it had been a dead end, the both of them would have no idea what they could have done.
Standing on the mountain, a cooling breeze sweeps past them. If one were to look up at the sky, he would find that the moon today is exceptionally bright. The two of them exchange gazes and heave a sigh of relief harmoniously.
Lu Chen smiles, “Looks like our luck isn’t bad.”
Hong Chuan nods his head, “Indeed, indeed. I didn’t expect that we would be able to walk out just like that.”
Lu Chen scans the surroundings and realised that the exit, looking from the outside, is just a small crevice along the rock wall that is covered by greenery. The interior of the crevice only looks slightly dim from the outside. If one doesn’t walk into it, he wouldn’t realise how deep into the mountains the passageway would lead. There are many such crevices on the tea mountain, so how could normal humans tell them apart from one another. It is hard to imagine that there would be a passageway behind this crevice that leads all the way into the depths of the mountain until the cave by the cliff of the chasm.
Lu Chen jots down the geography of this crevice in mind. After a short moment, he turns around and smiles towards Hong Chuan, saying, “No matter what, we are finally out of danger. Shall we return?”
Hong Chuan nods his head. Then, shock appears on his face as he says, “Brother Lu, can I bother for you a moment more? The net that I used to capture the swallows is still on top of the mountain by the chasm. I have to go back to retrieve it.”
Lu Chen nods his head and replies, “Let’s go.”
The two of them tread up the tea mountain once more. People rarely appear in this area and dense thorns fill the entire mountain jungle, not to mention the lack of pavement and the steep slope. Thus, it is a much more difficult journey as compared to when they climbed up from the front mountain. It is fortunate that the both of them are at age where they are young and strong, allowing them to utilise both of their hands and feet efficiently to climb up.
After around an hour, the two of them reappear by the chasm. With his sharp eye, Hong Chuan immediately spots the net which he had lost by the chasm. The net wiggles slightly now and then. There are a few swallows which are still trapped within.
Hong Chuan is overjoyed. He immediately rushes over and pick it up. Then, he backs away from the chasm along with Lu Chen. He checks the swallow in the net one by one and obtains four more perfect crimson feathers.
Thus, along with the 98 crimson feather which he had obtained previously, his mission ends with a success with two additional feathers.
Hong Chuan heaves a long sigh of relief. Beside him, Lu Chen pats his shoulder and says, “Congratulations.”
Hong Chuan turns over and sincerely says, “Coming over here, I have been assisted by Brother Lu for many times. I am indescribably grateful to you.”
Lu Chen waves his hands and smiles, “It’s just a small matter. Alright, since we’re done, let’s head back.”
After which, he takes the lead for the journey down the mountain. Although it is already deep in the night, the bright moon illuminates the paths of the tea mountain. Also, given Lu Chen’s familiarity with the road, they managed to descend the tea mountain safely without any mishaps, all the way back to Lu Chen’s straw cottage.
Then, the both of them rested without talking. In the turn of an eye, it is already the morning of the next day.
When the morning sun rises, its rays drive away the chill of the night and the calling of the rooster could be heard from the faraway Clear Stream Village. Smoke arises some some of the cottages, presenting a peaceful sight. In the straw cottage by the foot of the mountain, Lu Chen sends Hong Chuan, who has finished packing his luggage, out. At the same time, he asks, “Brother Hong, do you really not need anything else? Previously, you lost your items in the water.”
Hong Chuan shakes his head, “Those are only monetary possessions, it matters not.” Afterwards, he assumes a serious face and says, “Brother Lu, you are an upright man with strong morals, the first person like that whom I have seen in my life. My teacher has often taught me that it is hard to differentiate between good and evil in the world and it cannot be judged based on one’s cultivation. Today, I finally understand that he speaks of the absolute truth.”
Lu Chen bursts into laughter, “Brother Hong, you are really putting me into distress. I only helped you with some minor affairs, you don’t have to take it to heart.”
Hong Chuan shakes his head, “That is not so! This matter isn’t minor to me. Besides, even if it is minor, your courage to help those in need isn’t something normal people could match up to. Last night, before I fell to sleep, I asked myself whether I could do the same as well. However, contemplating about it again and again, I can’t determinedly affirm with a ‘yes’. I feel ashamed…”
Lu Chen is taken aback. He retracts the smile on his face as he stares into Hong Chuan’s eyes with rare respect, “Brother Hong, you are too strict on yourself.”
Hong Chuan smiles. He looks at Lu Chen and says, “Brother Lu, you have indeed done me a great favor. Also, given the accident that happened on the mountain last night, you saved my life. This gratitude that I owe you, I am truly unsure of how I could repay it to you.”
Lu Chen shakes his head. Just as he is about to say something, Hong Chuan continues, “Brother Lu, if I may speak of something rude, after living in Clear Stream Village for so many years, have you ever considered inspecting your roots at the Thousand Autumn Doors so as to verify whether you are capable of cultivating?”
Lu Chen frowns as a glint flashes across his eyes. However, he soon reverts back to normal. After pondering for a moment, he smiles, “That’s roughly about it. Look at the villagers here, who isn’t working for this goal?”
Hong Chuan nods. After a moment of silence, he retrieves a jade token attached to the hilt of the sword behind him and passes it to Lu Chen.
Lu Chen is surprised. He reaches out to grasp the token. The token is slightly cold to the touch. The jade token is square in shape and has a warm color. There isn’t any words on it, just the picture of a river.
“This is…” Lu Chen directs a questioning look towards Hong Chuan, confused.
Hong Chuan breaths in deeply and says, “Brother Lu, this jade token is representative of me, so please keep it well. I am unsure of what you might meet with in the future, but if things aren’t going well, bring this token to Kunlun Mountain to look for me. While I can’t say about anything else, I will definitely get you a chance to inspect your talent roots. If by chance and luck, you have the roots suitable for cultivating, you can come under our Kunlun Sect; if the chance doesn’t present itself, I can ensure that you could stay there as a menial disciple. Although I can’t say much about how your future would be, you should be slightly better off than normal people.”
Lu Chen’s body trembles as a flabbergasted look appears on his face. Something seems to flash through his eyes as a thought comes to his mind. Several emotions flicker across his face. After a short moment, he nods his head solemnly and says, “I didn’t expect that Brother Hong would look upon gratitude so highly. I understand, I will accept your present.”
Hong Chuan laughs as he cup his hands towards Lu Chen. Without any other words, he turns around and walks away with large strides. Very quickly, he reaches the bottom of the mountain. He walks on the bluestone path by the clear stream and soon, his figure disappears in the midst of green bamboos and peach blossoms.
Standing at the entrance of the straw cottage, Lu Chen looks at the sky, only to see a shade of blue in the clear sky. Somehow, a smile seems to creep onto his face.