The road leading out of the interior of the mountain was 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 swept past them. If one were to look up at the sky, he would find that the moon today was exceptionally bright. The two of them exchanged gazes and heaved a sigh of relief harmoniously.
Lu Chen smiled, “Looks like our luck isn’t bad.”
Hong Chuan nodded his head, “Indeed, indeed. I didn’t expect that we would be able to walk out just like that.”
Lu Chen scanned the surroundings and realised that the exit, from the outside, looked just like a small crevice along the rock wall that was covered by greenery. The interior of the crevice only looked 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 were many such crevices on the tea mountain, so how could normal humans tell them apart from one another. It was 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 jotted down the location of the crevice in mind. After a short moment, he turned around and smiled toward Hong Chuan, saying, “No matter what, we are finally out of danger. Shall we return?”
Hong Chuan nodded his head. Then suddenly, he appeared shocked as he said, “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 nodded his head and replied, “Let’s go.”
The two of them treaded up the tea mountain once more. People rarely appear in this area and dense thorns filled the entire mountain jungle, not to mention the lack of pavement and the steep slope. Thus, it was a much more difficult journey as compared to when they climbed up from the front mountain. It was fortunate that the both of them were young and strong, allowing them to utilise both of their hands and feet efficiently in their climb up.
An hour later, the two of them reappeared by the chasm. With sharp eyes, Hong Chuan immediately spotted the net which he had lost by the chasm. The net wiggled slightly now and then. There were a few swallows still trapped within.
Hong Chuan was overjoyed. He rushed over immediately and picked it up. Then, he backed away from the chasm along with Lu Chen. He checked the swallows in the net one by one and obtained another four perfect crimson feathers.
Thus, along with the 98 crimson feather which he had obtained previously, his mission ended successfully with two additional feathers.
Hong Chuan heaved a long sigh of relief. Beside him, Lu Chen patted his shoulder and said, “Congratulations.”
Hong Chuan turned over and said with sincerity, “Coming over here, I have been assisted by Brother Lu for many times. I am indescribably grateful to you.”
Lu Chen waved his hands and smiled, “It’s just a small matter. Alright, since we’re done, let’s head back.”
After which, he took the lead for the journey down the mountain. Although it was already deep at night, the bright moon illuminated 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 blink of an eye, it was already the morning of the next day.
When the sun rose, its rays drove away the chills of the night and roosters’ morning calls could be heard from the faraway Clear Stream Village. Smoke emerged from chimneys, presenting a peaceful sight. In the straw cottage by the foot of the mountain, Lu Chen sent Hong Chuan, who had finished packing his luggage, off. At the same time, he asked, “Brother Hong, do you really not need anything else? Previously, you lost your items in the water.”
Hong Chuan shook his head, “Those are only monetary possessions, it matters not.” After that, he assumed a serious face and said, “Brother Lu, you are an upright man with strong morals, the first person like that whom I have seen in my life. My teacher often told 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 burst into laughter, “Brother Hong, you are really causing me distress. I merely helped you with some minor affairs, you don’t have to take it to heart.”
Hong Chuan shook 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 it again and again, I can’t determinedly affirm with a ‘yes’. I feel ashamed…”
Lu Chen was taken aback. He retracted the smile on his face as he stared into Hong Chuan’s eyes with rare respect, “Brother Hong, you are too strict on yourself.”
Hong Chuan smiled. He looked at Lu Chen and said, “Brother Lu, you have indeed done me a great favor. Also, given the accident that happened on the mountain last night, you are my savior. This gratitude that I owe you, I am truly unsure of how I could repay it to you.”
Lu Chen shook his head. Just as he was about to say something, Hong Chuan continued, “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 frowned as a glint flashed across his eyes. However, he soon reverted back to normal. After pondering for a moment, he smiled, “That’s roughly about it. Look at the villagers here, who isn’t working for this goal?”
Hong Chuan nodded. After a moment of silence, he retrieved a jade token attached to the hilt of the sword behind him and passed it to Lu Chen.
Lu Chen was surprised. He reached out to grasp the token. The token was slightly cold to the touch. The jade token was square in shape and has a warm color. There wasn’t any words on it, just the picture of a river.
“This is…” Lu Chen directed a questioning look toward Hong Chuan, confused.
Hong Chuan took a deep breath and said, “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 trembled as a flabbergasted look appeared on his face. Something seemed to flash through his eyes as a thought comes to his mind. Several emotions flickered across his face. After a short moment, he nodded his head solemnly and said, “I didn’t expect that Brother Hong would look upon gratitude so highly. I understand, I will accept your present.”
Hong Chuan laughed as he cupped his hands towards Lu Chen. Without any other words, he turned around and walked away with large strides. Very quickly, he reached the bottom of the mountain. He walked on the bluestone path by the clear stream and soon, his figure disappeared into the midst of green bamboos and peach blossoms.
Standing at the entrance of the straw cottage, Lu Chen looked at the sky, only to see a shade of blue in the clear sky. Somehow, a smile seemed to have crept onto his face.