Chapter 54: Yue Xuan Zither
“No! Don’t touch it!”
Seeing how close Gu Ting Yu was to touching the zither, Qian Lü’s voice trembled abnormally.
Just before Gu Ting Yu’s fingertips could reach the zither, Qian Lü came charging in the pavilion at full force, pushing him away with one hand.
*SPLASH* The water splattered in all directions as Gu Ting Yu flew out from the pavilion before he landed heavily into the chilling spring water.
The waves soon turned into soft murmurs, then eventually, the ripples disappeared as the surface of the water regained its usual peace.
Qian Lü absent-mindedly watched the water, then looked at his own palm when he suddenly realized—
The human had not returned to the surface!
The calm surface of the center of the five spring mouths was contrary to the current that stirred wildly beneath. Gu Ting Yu, who was caught off guard by the attack, did not manage to catch his breath before diving straight into the water. The icy coldness took away his ability to breathe. Amidst his confusion, he felt himself sinking deeper.
He could hear the bubbles popping by his ears as he turned his gaze towards the fast approaching white shadow…
“Uhh…” he groaned as he felt something soft pressing against his mouth. Air started to flow into his throat, relieving his suffocating lungs.
Qian Lü hugged Gu Ting Yu’s waist as he swam difficulty back to the surface.
As the two resurfaced again, Gu Ting Yu started to cough violently, choking on the water. While looking at Gu Ting Yu’s pale face with an uneasy expression, Qian Lü held onto Gu Ting Yu’s waist. Then, he finally said, “I… didn’t do it on purpose.”
The icy cold spring water was continuously dripping from Gu Ting Yu’s pitch-black hair. He kept on looking downwards, making it hard to see his expression.
This is so stupid, he thought as the unspoken rage inside of him flared again; he’d lost count on how many times he fell into the water. When he finally got the gist of the technique to walk to the other end, he found himself hoping to hear the man’s compliment.
Qian Lü opened his mouth, seemingly wanting to say something, but Gu Ting Yu turned and fell back into the water, then swam towards the shore.
He climbed onto the shore, battered and exhausted after the torment that lasted the whole afternoon. Nightfall had arrived, and a cooling breeze combed through the bamboo forest; Gu Ting Yu started trembling.
“Go change your clothes,” Qian Lü grumbled from behind. “Feeling uncomfortable anywhere?”
Gu Ting Yu remained quiet.
The two returned to the bamboo house, and neither of them said a word.
Gu Ting Yu expressionlessly and silently changed into a pale green long-sleeved outfit.
As for Qian Lü, he was biting down on his own lips; he wanted to say something, but he was afraid to provoke Gu Ting Yu. In the end, he opened the door and left.
Behind the bamboo house, there was a large piece of land filled with Jie Xian grass. The soft greenish plant was about six inches tall, and if someone glanced over the area, it seemed as though the plants were dancing like ocean waves.
Qian Lü picked out a few stalks of the Jie Xian grass, choosing those which looked the tenderest, then minced them before placing them on a plate.
Jie Xian grass had bitter taste, but was very useful for replenishing spiritual energy.
Even though he was really hungry, Gu Ting Yu simply stared at the plate full of greenery placed before him on the table.
After two bites, Qian Lü’s eyes peeked at Gu Ting Yu. He quietly shifted the plate full of Jie Xian grass towards the human, then continued eating with his head lowered.
Gu Ting Yu kept on staring at the grass, not moving an inch.
Qian Lü suddenly remembered that Gu Ting Yu was a human, so… humans might not be used to eating Jie Xian grass.
He put down his chopsticks, lowered his head and pondered briefly. Next, he walked out of the bamboo house and disappeared without a trace.
Gu Ting Yu turned to check his surroundings. Assured that no one was around, he picked up the chopsticks, and dipped them into the greenery juice before placing it in his mouth. He frowned instantly.
How could that guy like this kind of stuff? To boot, it’s raw!
Not too long after, Qian Lü returned, gasping for breath; he was carrying a handful of greenish, plum-like fruit. He hesitantly poked Gu Ting Yu’s back, passing the fruit into the other’s hands.
Gu Ting Yu did not turn around.
Qian Lü dejectedly moved to the corner of the room where he randomly opened a medical booklet to read. His eyes would occasionally shift from the book towards the floor, then traced the wooden lining, moving all the way… to finally reach the human.
Gu Ting Yu had his back to Qian Lü as he was sitting in front of the table. Under the bright moonlight, Qian Lü could see his shoulders moving gently. As his gaze shifted upwards, even though he could only see a little of Gu Ting Yu’s side view, the movement of cheeks confirmed to Qian Lü that Gu Ting Yu was eating the fruit.
Qian Lü could not describe the emotion he was feeling; he pursed his lips together and smiled.
After he had finished his dinner, Gu Ting Yu could feel his body warm up. Perhaps it was due to the coldness from falling into water numerous times; Gu Ting Yu placed his hand on his forehead as he leaned against the bench near the window.
The curtains swayed, and moonlight was shining into the room. Suddenly, Gu Ting Yu could feel something cool on his forehead, which made him open his eyes. Qian Lü was standing before him, touching his forehead softly with his hand.
“What’s wrong?” Qian Lü’s voice was surprisingly gentle.
Gu Ting Yu shook his head, “It’s nothing.”
“You humans… are really weak.”
Gu Ting Yu shot him a glare, but was too tired to speak.
Qian Lü sat closed to Gu Ting Yu before he spoke, “Actually, you could force the coldness out from your body. You should try.”
“Oh.” Gu Ting Yu closed his eyes, focusing.
“Pfft—“ Qian Lü could not hold back his laughter. “How can you be so stupid? You look like you’re constipated—”
Gu Ting Yu shot up from the bench, “What’s your problem?!”
He really had no idea on how to use the energy within his body, yet this person wouldn’t stop ridiculing him for it. That was just too much.
Seeing that slightly red face, Qian Lü wondered if it was due to the fever or anger; somehow, he couldn’t help feeling strangely delighted.
“Come on,” he said.
Gu Ting Yu frowned again.
Qian Lü pulled Gu Ting Yu’s hand, and headed towards the door, “Didn’t you want to know about the zither?”
Outside, the moon was high up in the sky.
The mountain breeze brushed against Qian Lü’s clothes as he dragged the other along. His slim back came into Gu Ting Yu’s view, and Gu Ting Yu thought how handsome this person was with his unique demeanor.
If only this person wouldn’t speak… then he could be considered perfect.
They continued walking towards the pavilion where the old zither lay in the center. With the moon now covered by clouds, the night became slightly darker.
Gu Ting Yu had a feeling that the zither was a bit weird…
“Its name is Yue Xuan Zither. As you’ve seen, it has no strings on it.”
In the legends, the Yue Xuan Zither was an instrument carried by an unknown alchemist. A thousand years ago, while this alchemist was passing through the Black Water Forest, the winds started to go wild as lightning and thunder raged. When lighting tore the sky apart, a thunderbolt struck into the ten thousand years old fir tree that was just beside the alchemist.
Instantly, a red glow covered the sky as the old tree started to wither. The alchemist, who witnessed it all, felt pity for that old tree. Thus, he scraped the burnt trunk; unexpectedly, he found the core of the tree intact.
He touched the core gently and a tune suddenly echoed. That was the first time the alchemist had heard such a beautiful and unique sound. Wherever his palm would brush over the wood, a tune would resound even louder through the forest.
He then made the tree core into a zither and named it Yue Xuan, keeping it by his side. It was said that upon hearing the tune from that zither, even the sickest person would recover without treatment.
However, after the alchemist died, the Yue Xuan zither had not been played again.
The Yue Xuan zither was different from other zithers—it had a soul. It was looking for a rightful owner, not someone who would pass it on to others.
Since the past, there were only two people able to play it. One was the alchemist who created it, and the other was Qian Lü.
Qian Lü held the Yue Xuan zither in his hand as he caressed it dearly. “It has been with me for the past hundreds of years. Back then, I had just obtained my human form and was a clueless brat. I found it in a pile of trash grave robbers discarded. It was like a piece of rotten wood. Still, I could feel its breathing and sadness… When I touched it, it played a tune that changed everything.”
Qian Lü described the past in his low and distinct voice. “I took it back to where I lived. There wasn’t much human activity there. It was a very quiet place. Every day, I would play Yue Xuan deep in the bamboo forest. It was as if it could sense my my very core. Back then, its tune was clear and pure… perhaps only I could play such a beautiful sound.”
Qian Lü lowered his head; a smile lingered on his lips. His eyes were glistening as they revealed the indulged expression he had.
Gu Ting Yu couldn’t help but ask, “What happened next?”
“Next… I realized the real use of the zither.”
When the Yue Xuan zither was played again after staying silent for a thousand years, it pushed Qian Lü, who stood aloof from worldly affairs, towards the center of the power struggle. It was then that demons and spirits from all over the world would bring patients full of sickness and pain, and seek help from Qian Lü.
The Yue Xuan zither played almost nonstop, and that unique melody echoed through the bamboo forest.
However, the crowds seemed to have no end. One batch of people would have barely left, yet there would be another batch of people the next morning.
Qian Lü was burdened with too much expectation and he began to feel exhausted.
The tune no longer belonged solely to himself.
“There were some things that were not up to me to decide. After that…” Qian Lü paused as he took a deep breath, holding the zither tightly.