Martial King’s Retired Life – Vol. 13 Ch. 69

Sun Xianggong

The wind elevated leaves down to the bottomless sky. Fishes swam up toward the pool, the bubbles they produced falling downward. Light moved in slow motion. Heaven was down low. The ground was up above.

From his perspective, foolish beings sucked the life out of living organisms in his silent upside-down world. The world had been in this form for ages, yet everyone within it was oblivious to it.

Cicadas were still singing even though the sun had started illuminating the tree trunk they were on. Whether the sky was tangerine or shrouded by white clouds, nothing could be heard over their singing.

“Sun Xianggong! Sun Xianggong!”

Miss Zhou’s father was a woodworker at the village. While his skills weren’t noteworthy, he would visit people’s homes to offer his services for spare change. Thanks to his honest and earnest work ethic, the villagers supported him enough for him to get married and raise an adorable daughter.

Societal norms deemed it inappropriate for an eighteen-year-old maiden to visit a single man’s home alone, but Miss Zhou was outgoing, and Sun Xianggong was someone she was familiar with.

By the time Sun Xianggong was done meaninglessly brooding over the upside world, Miss Zhou’s anxious expression had turned into a smile and popped through the door.

“What’s the matter?”

Blushing, Miss Zhou replied, “Sorry, Sun Xianggong, but my dad’s old illness is bothering him again.”

“My goodness me. I have yet to get out of bed.”

When Sun Xianggong first moved into the village three years ago, the villagers were rather apprehensive about approaching him, not because he looked scary but because they felt someone as educated as him wouldn’t mesh with them. After he rescued the village chief who had one foot in his coffin, the villagers realised he was a friendly individual and therefore opened up to him.

Sun Xianggong was an excellent physician, but he would never charge the villagers. As a matter of fact, he’d visit his patients if he had time. Whenever he was called for an emergency, he’d always bemoan, “My goodness me,” first. Nevertheless, he’d brightly and hurriedly race to those in need.

“I’ll be there right away.”

Sun Xianggong promptly packed his basket. The basket he carried was the same type that scholars would use as a backpack for their books, yet he barely had any books because books weren’t cheap. In saying that, he absolutely could afford books; he just developed a miser mentality after leading a simple life in the village.

“Let’s go, Shitou.”

Shitou, a middle-aged man with the face of a kid, and Sun Xianggong were always in each other’s company. Shitou was actually Sun Xianggong’s niece. Although their appearances suggested otherwise, Shitou was actually older than Sun Xianggong. No doctor or formula had been able to make Shitou any less “slow”.

In addition to being well-versed in medical practices, Sun Xianggong was erudite in reading the solar system. Using this knowledge, he educated the villages to improve their land, yields and helped them avoid losing crops due to harsh weather. People used to ask him if his ancestors were farmers, but he told them his ancestors were all scholars. This meant that Sun Xianggong wasn’t knowledgeable but smart, unimaginably smart. If not even someone of his calibre could cure Shitou, then it was normal for people to be shocked.

“Did I come too early?” queried Miss Zhou. “Brother Shitou’s hair is still messy.”

Shitou always had a blank look on his face, but he dressed neatly and walked with a tall posture, so it was no surprise that he took care of his hair, too. Right now, his hair made it look as if he had been electrocuted.

“Probably?” joked Sun Xianggong.

Walking beside Sun Xianggong with her hands behind her back, Miss Zhou cast her gaze to the ground and brushed her hair behind her ear as she said, “Sorry.” She suddenly felt the parts of her face with sweat go chilly.

Given girls were commonly married around fifteen and sixteen years of age, people often suspected there was something wrong with a maiden if she still wasn’t married at eighteen. In the past, eighteen was considered a maiden’s prime – something Sun Xianggong agreed with. What can we say? Boys these days used their eyes for decoration.

Sun Xianggong’s definition of “in the past” was different to others. His definition of “in the past” didn’t refer to a specific point in time but, rather, a specific era. People of this era would refer to his “in the past” era as the previous dynasty. Sun Xianggong only had “recent” and “in the past” as measures of time.

Sun Xianggong held the opinion that the world and its inhabitants were better in the past.

The “old illness” Miss Zhou mentioned was her father’s chronic lower back pain. His condition was the accumulation of decades of earnest physical labour. Herbs and soups couldn’t help him; only acupuncture, massage and adequate rest could help him. Telling him to rest, however, was akin to telling the sun to rise from the west.

Sun Xianggong had helped Mr. Zhou numerous times before. Unfortunately, he couldn’t resolve the root problem, so Mr. Zhou would suffer spontaneous bouts of pain. Today, though, Sun Xianggong noticed several different things to usual upon setting foot through the door.

Firstly, there were their neighbours, business neighbours and even the village chief’s family of seven all gathered in the small courtyard. They gave Sun Xianggong smiles but didn’t say a word. According to them, they were just dropping in to visit their friend, so why was he getting more attention than Mr. Zhou? While Mr. Zhou’s back would play up from time to time, it wasn’t supposed to act up today, and his back certainly was fine. Mr. Zhou was a taciturn man, yet he didn’t stop talking for an hour.

“After your massage, I need to apply some medicine. Please wait while I go collect the required herbs now.” Sun Xianggong got up and left in spite of Mr. Zhou wanting to keep him. “Shitou, let’s go.”

Sun Xianggong certainly planned to fetch herbs. Howbeit, that wasn’t his sole purpose for going to the dense forest. Two people emerged from the shadows in a manner that displayed their skills as combatants and genuflected at his feet.

“We are here to offer you our services.”

“I don’t accept,” replied Sun Xianggong, focusing on searching for herbs.

After many more futile attempts at persuading Sun Xianggong, the duo gave up but still stated, “We will be back.”

As Sun Xianggong predicted, most of Mr. Zhou’s guests had left by the time he returned, with only the village chief’s family and Mr. Zhou’s relatives remaining.

As Sun Xianggong applied needles to Mr. Zhou’s accupoints a second time for the day, Mr. Zhou said, “I noticed you’ve been alone all this time. You see… My daughter likes being around you. Though she is still young, she’s a great girl. I think… she likes you. She may be clumsy, but if you are okay, how about…”

Sun Xianggong: I figured as much. I was right to wait for everyone to leave before returning.

“Sun Xianggong, wait for me!” Even though she was aware of what her father told Sun Xianggong, Miss Zhou still ran out after him.

The temperature was still high, and the cicadas were still holding a concert in spite of the sun having bowed out for the day. The only thing that had changed around Sun Xianggong was that Miss Zhou’s eyes were red unlike earlier in the day.

“Why didn’t you accept?” While she shot straight, her voice lacked confidence. It was quite obvious what she wanted to say from her gaze alone. “Am I lacking?”

Sun Xianggong shook his head.

“Did I make you angry?”

Sun Xianggong shook his head again.

“Do you have someone you like?”

Sun Xianggong nodded.

“Who do you like? Xiaofang? Weiwei? O-or is it Mrs. Li on the far east of the village?”

Sun Xianggong reactively laughed to his own surprise.

Miss Zhou stomped. “Y-you’re making fun of me!”

“No, no, I laughed because of how cute and innocent you are. I am not mocking you.”

Though Miss Zhou could tell Sun Xianggong was being sincere, she still felt vexed. Lowering her head once again, she asked, “So… why did you not accept? I may not be good with my hands or cooking… but I will put in the effort to learn. Am I too ugly for you?”

“Absolutely not. You’re a beautiful young lady, and I believe you will earnestly learn. One day, you’ll be the perfect wife.”

“So why?”

“I lost the desire to have a family after my late wife passed away.”

Sun Xianggong gazed up at the stars. Perhaps he was looking at the world. Perhaps he wasn’t gazing at anything in particular at all. Whatever the case, Miss Zhou saw love in his eyes.

“… Do you still miss her?”

“If the world exists for another hundred years, two hundred years… one thousand years, maybe I’ll continue to miss her for as long as the world exists. Listen to the cicadas. The world is ever changing. Many things are no longer what they once were. Even so, the cicadas still sing like they sung back when she was sat beside me.”

Miss Zhou looked up at Sun Xianggong. Mayhap she felt sorry for him; mayhap she felt sorry for herself.

“How long have you missed her for?”

After he answered the question, Sun Xianggong took Shitou home.

Miss Zhou stood under the night sky for a long time musing over the answer Sun Xianggong gave her: “… A hundred years.”

 

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