Lu Chen shook his head, “The spirit wood is still underage, so it can’t be traded for much spirit stones even if I were to cut it. It would be a pity. Forget it, let’s leave it here to grow for a while longer.”
Hong Chuan was slightly surprised. He took a look at Lu Chen and nodded his head.
After resting for a few more moments, they started to look for a way out. At this moment, they seemed to be around 20 zhang or so from the top of the chasm. The path from the cave to the top of the cliff was just mainly a flat rock wall, so it would be hard to climb up. After staring at each other for a moment, they walked into the interiors of the cave to take a look.
Unexpectedly, after a careful inspection, they realised that there seemed to be another world inside the small cave.
Lu Chen twisted off a few pieces of wood and lighted it up with an ignitable paper roll. He walked into the cave together with Hong Chuan. After passing several boulders, they saw a twisted path ahead of them that led into the interiors of the mountain.
The both of them exchanged gazes. After a moment, Lu Chen said, “Let’s go, otherwise we would be waiting for our deaths here.”
Hong Chuan expressed agreement and the two proceeded into the depths of the cave.
As they walked into the interiors of the cave, they soon found themselves swamped in darkness, except for the torch that illuminated the rock walls beside them. They could see many sharp stone edges and protrusions from it. Proceeding on further, water started dripping from the top of the rock wall. There were algae growing in some location. Occasionally, the torch illuminated the presence of some small bugs crawling by.
The surrounding was almost completely silent. Soon, the passageway narrowed to a point where only one person could pass at a time.
Lu Chen surveyed the surrounding and stated to Hong Chuan behind him, “It doesn’t seem that anyone has been here before.”
Hong Chuan nodded his head as worry reflected in his eyes, “I wonder if there is a way out from here?”
Lu Chen replied, “It would depend on luck.” He continued walking forward. At the same time, perhaps to liven the situation and get the both of them to relax, Lu Chen smiled, “I remember that when I was younger, I would often hear people retelling stories in the tea house and taverns. Whenever a crisis happens, the bad man would meet with misfortune while the good man would always turn the hopeless situation before him into a blessing, such as walking into some heavenly residence and meeting with an opportunity of a lifetime, haha.”
Initially, Hong Chuan’s face was solemn but upon hearing those words, he burst into laughter uncontrollably. He shook his head with a smile, “Now that you say so, that does seem to be it.” After a momentary pause, he continued, “Just that, are we the good men or the bad men?”
Lu Chen smiled, “Who knows.”
In this world, it was easy to term a person as a good man and bad man, but it wasn’t so when trying to differentiate between the two of them. At this moment, in this cave by the chasm in the wilderness, if one were to talk about luck, it would be hard to tell whether Lu Chen and Hong Chuan were the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’.
They felt that they had walked for a long distance in this peculiar, albeit natural road in the interior of the mountain, but they still had not reached the end yet.
Throughout the journey, they were lucky in the sense that they didn’t meet with any accidents. Yet similarly, they didn’t stumble upon any heavenly residence, peerless cultivation art, mystical secret manuals or some great inheritance.
On this fact, it seemed that the both of them are… neither good nor bad?
“I think that I am a good person”, Hong Chuan said from the back, between his panting breaths. After such a long distance in this dark and narrow passageway, he felt slightly fatigued. Furthermore, the surroundings were too dark and too quiet, inducing inconceivable emotions in one’s mind. Thus, he felt impelled to talk to Lu Chen, “After walking for so long, we didn’t meet with any trouble. Thus, we should be fine.”
Lu Chen’s torch neared its end. He gazed worriedly at the final bit of flames that were burning as he replied, “Is that so? I don’t think our words count in determining whether we are good or bad. Back when you were in Kunlun Sect, what did your peers view you as? Do they say that you are a good man or a bad man?”
Hong Chuan contemplated and he replied uncertainly, “Keng… It doesn’t seem that anyone has talked about it before. Regardless of whether I am good or bad, who would claim that someone is a good man or a bad man out of the blue?”
Lu Chen chuckled, “Not even one person has told that to you?”
Hong Chuan shook his head, “None at all.”
Lu Chen asked, “Then, in your mind, have you thought about what is a good man and what is a bad man?”
Hong Chuan was taken aback. He replied, “I think… The orthodox cultivators carry out acts of justice, they are good men; those unorthodox cultivators from demonic cults who kills the innocent, they are bad men.”
Lu Chen paused for a moment. He seemed to want to say something but his words stopped in his throats.
Behind him, upon seeing Lu Chen pause in his tracks, Hong Chuan subconsciously stopped as well and he asked, “Brother Lu, what happened?”
Lu Chen turned around and looked at Hong Chuan. The moment he opened his mouth to utter something, they were plunged into darkness suddenly. The torch had burnt fully and even the final few sparks had extinguished.
Stranded in the depths of the mountain, plunged into sudden darkness, the two of them quietened. The darkness assaulted them from all direction in an instant.
The surroundings fell completely silent…
It was not sure from when on, but one could almost hear his own heartbeat in the silence. Lu Chen’s calm voice suddenly sounded out, “We should continue walking.”
Hong Chuan was surprised. At this moment, he could not even make out Lu Chen’s silhouette, needless to say to walk on. He couldn’t help asking, “It is so dark, can you make out the road? If only we still had a torch.”
Lu Chen slowly turned around and proceeded forward, “Let’s go.”
Hong Chuan hesitated for a moment, before eventually beginning to fumble his way through slowly. However, for an instant, he could see a blur figure in front of him and it seemed to be Lu Chen’s back. However, what was weird was that his posture was just like how it was previously. He still held a fire torch in his hand, as though it continued to illuminate the light that guided his path.
However, the surroundings were obviously pitch-black, there wasn’t even a shimmer of light.
That faint figure was still walking forward. His hand was still raised, as though there were really flames burning on a torch in his hands.
Burning silently, as though the flames itself were black. Black flames.
In the stories, whenever one was plunged into this situation, there would always be some incredible incident occurring. It could be a mystical adventure or an opportunity. Perhaps a hidden expert or a rare spirit herb. All in all, the critical moment to test if one is sufficiently lucky to become the protagonist of fate would appear at this moment.
However, this evening, in this pitch-black narrow passageway in the depths of the mountain, Lu Chen and Hong Chuan did not possess such luck. As they walked on and on, twisting and turning for an hour, they found a crack of light right in front of them. As they rushed forward, they found themselves at the bottom of the mountain facing the back of the tea mountain.
It feels weird to use good and bad in the conversation between adults, but as the author chooses to use the basic words in this text, I will follow by his intention.
Ignitable paper roll (火折子)