Treasures of Heaven and Earth (天堂与地球的宝藏) an original XiaXia by WheeledWriter
Disclaimer: Not Asian, can't speak Chinese. The following is an idea that has been rolling around in my head since around the same time I started reading CD and has only gotten stronger since I've never seen an attempt to address the central idea behind this story. What is it? Keep reading to find out.
Rén Chún walked slowly up the dusty path, flicking his staff at the trailers of his village's flock of geese as they marched up the mountain side. The screams of a mighty army on the march, he mused to himself as the unceasingly squawking fowl flowed like a river towards their favorite grazing area, startling various smaller creatures along the path with their cacophony.
Chún was used to the noise they made, though. As a simple orphan who survived by doing odd jobs for the village, he was often given the work others preferred not to do - compared to carrying out the village night-soil to the fields or cleaning out the offal from the carcasses that the butcher hung out the front of his shop, putting up with the screams of the village flock was an easy break.
The sun warmed his shoulders as he called out to a few birds that had decided to sneak off the path. "yi, yi yi, sisters stay with us", he cried as he circled along side and ahead of the wayward geese flicking his staff as one stretched out her neck and hissed at him. "none of that, Princess - back", jabbing the stick in warning at the goose's beak.
The bird pulled back and with a grand show of flapping and ruffled feathers chose to turn back and rejoin the main group - acting as if had been her intention the whole time, of course - followed by her underlings. Snorting with amusement, Chún bent down and plucked a stalk of grass at his feet as he kept an eye on the flock for any other breakaways, thinking to himself that the geese behaved a great deal like humans.
Straightening his back, he pulled in a great breath of air, which was much cleaner up here on the mountainside than down in the valley of the village - another reason he preferred this task to the others he was given to do. "Dangerous beasts ha, the only dangerous beasts on this mountain is this flock of good-for-nothing pile of feathers", he exclaimed grandly to the empty air, spreading his arms to indicate the gaggle of birds marching nosily up the mountain path, "...and the lack of company is getting to me with no one else to talk to".
Sticking the stalk of grass firmly between his lips, he whistled sharply as he resumed following the flock, chasing a few errant individuals towards the top of the mountain, pushing his woven grass head covering firmly down to shade his eyes from the morning sun and broke into a simple song - punctuating each line with the push of his staff into the path for purchase;
'Clean air and
Bird song and
Better than gold,
More precious than,
Treasures of Earth'
A serene mountainside; breezes swirling through treetops and ruffling green grass, the scent of wildflowers and herbs, calls of the proud steel-backed eagle and chatter of drilling jackdaw, water flowing over river rocks, chuckling wetly to itself as a doe and her fawn dip soft muzzles to drink - a proud stag watching alertly beside them.
The sun shines brightly in the sapphire sky and the essence of Heaven and Earth strengthens around the mountain; insects hum busily from flower to flower, chased by lizards...
...broken by the sound of cheerful if slightly off-tune singing, and a chiming beat of a stave beating against the ground. The deer jerk their necks upward and bound away in startlement, the sound of the jackdaw pauses - and then resumes as the voice falls silent, replaced with aged laughter coming from the top of a large boulder.
"Young Chún", wheezed Yijing as the old man wiped away tears of laughter, "A good verse - although perhaps, I think - you might wish to rewrite it when you get a little older."
Chún blinked. "I have been doing adult chores for the villagers for the last two seasons, Senior", the boy replied, slightly indignant "and hunting for myself for the past three - I am almost eleven seasons old".
Once again Chún thought he saw an appraising look cross the face of the old cultivator, before the aged head dipped slightly in apology. "I meant not to mock your achievements Rén Chún - merely that when you get to my age, everyone seems young", Yijing answered, smiling at the boy across from him, "Although I do wonder where you have heard of the warmth of a woman is less than that of a good bed..."
"I heard some of the village men talking about it", answered Chún in puzzlement, "Although I have never really understood it - a girl won't be any warmer than I am and without a bed, everything is cold at night, Senior - that is why I put it into my song", he added as an afterthought, rubbing the back of his neck in confusion as Yijing broke into a fit of coughing.
Yijing rubbed his mouth with his free hand as his coughing subsided, eyes twinkling, "Forgive me, ah... my throat has become dry with all this talking - and the sun is warm - please share a drink of my own design as thanks for your good company". His hand dropped from his face to a gourd fastened to his waist on the right side, pulling it free and above his head, tipping the opening of the gourd towards his lips - the clear liquid falling easily into his mouth.
"Ahh, that is better", he exclaimed and smiling extended the gourd towards Chún. "Please, it is refreshing on such a warm day..." Yijing waggled the gourd invitingly, sending the clear sound of liquid sloshing to Chún's ears.
Bowing his head in thanks, Chún hesitantly took the gourd and with the old Cultivator watching and nodding encouragingly, carefully raised it over his lips, catching the falling liquid into his open mouth.
An indescribable coolness rushed out from Chún's mouth and down his throat, hitting his stomach like a cool breeze that exploded through his body. For a moment he felt that he was standing under the small waterfall further down the mountain that he usually washed in - instead of on a boulder in the hot sun.
Chún felt a shiver pass through him, followed by a rush of energy. Small popping noises came from his muscles and joints causing him to twitch in surprise. He lowered the gourd hurriedly to avoid spilling it and stared at the old Cultivator with wide eyes.
"This is a treasure" , he exclaimed in shock, "Senior, you should not waste it on this unworthy one..." he hastily pushed the gourd back into Yujie's hand and scrambled off the boulder to bow deeply to the Cultivator.
Yijing snorted gently and hopped off the boulder, whacking Chún across the shoulders as he laded in front of him. "None of that nonsense, Young Chún. It is Water - not a treasure. Or at least", he waggled the gourd in Chún's face, forcing him to straighten up as he watched with disbelieving eyes as the short figure ambled away, toward the stream that crossed the north end of the small pasture, "not a treasure an ordinary man would recognise. Follow me, Young Chún - we can watch the flock from here as well as there".
Chún blinked - absently considering that he seemed to be doing that a lot lately - and scrambled to follow after Yijing who seemed to move a great deal faster than his pace might suggest, catching up in a puff of dust raised from his rough clothing despite the lushness of the pasture, just as Yijing reached the stream bank.
"Senior, I can refill your..."
Chún's apologetic statement cut off as Yujie extended the gourd in midair over the stream and vibrant blue mists swirled like wind blown dust up from the surface of the stream. Glittering cerulean motes darted in and out of the mists like fireflies which flowed into the mouth of the gourd.
Chún's pupils shrank in shock, but before he could speak, the stream chuckled loudly and twisted upward into the gourd following after the mist like a silver snake moving into bushes.
The quiet pop of Yijing replacing the cork shook Chún from his paralysis, to find the old Cultivator watching him steadily.
"Tell me Young Chún, what did you see?"
"Water... the Cry of the Stream it... into your - and then the water... just..."
Yijing's wrinkled face broke into a large smile, "Cry of the Stream, is it? Good. Very good." Yijing poked Chún with the top of his staff, "After hearing your song - I thought that might be how it was".
Yijing's face went solemn, staring at Chún seriously, "What would you say, Young Chún, if I told you even the mightiest", he frowned darkly, startling Chún, "...the mightiest Cultivator, would have only seen the water from the stream move to my gourd?"
Yijing smiled broadly again "But Young Chún can see more...", he laughed at the expression on Chún's face and moved past him back towards the boulder, raising his voice in a singsong tone.
"Come with me, Young Chún
Treasures of Heaven and Earth indeed, my friend
Treasures of Heaven and Earth"