Fu Lan nodded. “Do you want to go there? When we go back to Southern Jiang, I’ll take you there to play.”
This guy looked indifferent, as if Ba Mountain Temple was the neighborhood market and he could just go in with a basket. Qi Yin was somewhat incredulous and asked tentatively, “Really, you come from there? And are you sure… I can go?”
Fu Lan looked puzzled. “Why not?”
The two stared at each other, and Qi Yin suddenly felt that this guy was not very reliable. What if he led Qi Yin in and Qi Yin disappeared while they were walking, and this guy didn’t notice for a while?
Qi Yin was a bit speechless and said, “Isn’t there a white mist in Ba Mountain? And it eats people? Fifty years ago, a team of immortals went there to explore and all died there. I’m just a half-baked guy, not even a Daoist. Are you sure I can go in safely?”
Fu Lan patted Qi Yin’s head. “Xiao Yin is very cute. They will like you.”
“They?” Qi Yin was stunned.
“That’s the white mist you mentioned. It can’t really be called mist. Only the fool can see through it.” The black cat thought for a while, couldn’t come up with a clear explanation, and finally said, “I can’t explain it clearly. You’ll know when you see it yourself. As long as we follow the fool in, the white mist won’t eat us.”
Qi Yin didn’t understand. “What are they exactly? Can fog actually eat people? How does it eat them?”
“Xiao Yin.” Fu Lan looked at him calmly. “They were already dead when they entered the white fog.”
Qi Yin was stunned. “What do you mean?”
“Have you ever thought about how to confirm someone’s existence?” Fu Lan pointed to his eyes. “If someone exists, they can be seen. So if they are seen, their existence can be confirmed. In the white fog of Ba Mountain, we cannot see each other, nor can we see ourselves. God kills people without killing their hearts or cutting their throats. God erases their existence.”
He spoke in a mysterious way, and Qi Yin still didn’t understand. According to this, do blind people not exist? What kind of nonsense is this?
Qi Yin continued to ask questions, but Fu Lan wasn’t good at explaining things to begin with, and he couldn’t clarify this complicated question. Even the black cat was confused because it was also blinded like the group of Daoist priests, but luckily it was saved by Fu Lan. Qi Yin could only give up and thought that he would have the chance to see for himself in the future.
Moonlight moved through the dense flowers, and the black cat said, “Your brother stayed in that place when he was young. He broke through the fog at the age of eight and wandered outside for two years until he met this old man. Apart from your brother, there is no living creature that can move in Ba Mountain, but the scenery is very beautiful. There is an immortal spring behind the temple. When you go there, let the fool take you to soak in the hot springs. There are camellias in the spring, peonies in the summer, and during the full moon, you can hear the sound of a flute in the wind. Legend has it that in ancient times, a great shaman would play the bone flute for the White Deer God every full moon. The shaman disappeared, but the sound of the flute remained in the wind. When you were young and wouldn’t sleep at night, the fool would hum that tune to lull you to sleep.”
“The White Deer God?” Qi Yin asked. “Master said it’s an evil god who loves to eat children’s hearts.”
The black cat got angry. “What nonsense are you talking about! Eating hearts? How can that fat old man say such things? I heard that your immortal sect not only practices swordsmanship and spells, but also studies the history and origins of the Daoist tradition. The concepts of Feng Huo Qing He (1) and Wu Fang Yuan Yin (2) underline a comprehensive understanding of ancient and modern knowledge, and many works have been written about them. How could you not know that the gods were born from the spiritual energy of heaven and earth and don’t eat or drink?”
Two guys with two different versions. Qi Yin didn’t know who to believe and could only laugh it off: “He said it’s a legend, just a legend.”
Fu Lan took out a small wooden carving of a deer and placed it in Qi Yin’s palm. The deer stood on his palm, with slender legs and a smooth back like fine porcelain. Its body was carved with intricate and gorgeous patterns, especially its long horns, which were adorned with little floral buds that looked like spring flowers pinned to them. No one who saw such a beautiful deer could believe that it was a man-eating beast.
Qi Yin felt very interested and touched it, asking, “Is this the White Deer God?”
The black cat said, “It is the guardian god of our southern region. Demons in the southern region grow up in the White Deer God’s arms, listening to its stories. It loves children. If a young cub is lost or mistakenly enters another tribe’s territory, it will appear and lead the child back home. A long time ago, there was a war among the demons. Once they heard the sound of the deer’s hooves, they would stop fighting because they were afraid of making the White Deer sad by seeing them fight and bleed. But now, even if the Jade Emperor himself came, the demons would still fight to the death.” The black cat licked its lips and continued, “To the southern region, the White Deer is like Fu Xi and Nu Wa to the Central Plains. We couldn’t find you in Wu Jiang before. It was the White Deer God who guided us to Wu Tang.”
Qi Yin was stunned for a moment, thinking he must have heard wrong. He thought the White Deer God was like Fu Xi and Nu Wa, a god in a legendary story. He didn’t expect that it actually appeared and guided them. How did it guide them? Did it suddenly emerge from a white mist and say to Fu Lan, “Hey, fool, your precious little brother is in Wu Tang. Go find him now!” Then it disappeared with a soft sound of hooves.
Just as he was wondering about it, Fu Lan took out a cylinder from his Qiankun pouch (3) and shook it at the wooden deer, asking, “White Deer God, can I take Xiao Yin home to see you?”
A stick fell from the cylinder and a red slip of paper came out, saying “Very auspicious.”
Fu Lan said, “It said yes.”
“… ” Qi Yin rubbed his forehead. “You asked it where I was by drawing a fortune slip like this?”
“Yes.” The black cat stood up and pulled out a stick. “Just like this. We asked where to go to find you. ” The black cat put down the stick and pointed in one direction. “The White Deer God said north, and Wu Jiang is to the north. Sure enough, we found you there.”
“If you throw the stick again, the White Deer God might tell you to go south.”
“No, the first throw is always accurate. Throwing it again won’t work,” the black cat said seriously.
“Too silly,” thought Qi Yin, but he also felt happy. In the dimly-lit room, Fu Lan held a wooden carving while the black cat shook a container of divination sticks, asking if tomorrow Sang Ruo would give it braised pork belly. Qi Yin sat cross-legged on the bed, feeling warm inside.
When he was young and went to the Nuwa Temple, he often heard people making wishes for those they cared about. Sometimes he wondered if there was someone out there making wishes for him. He secretly listened to his aunt’s and uncle’s wishes, but their wishes only involved Yao Xiao Shan, not him.
Now Qi Yin knew that a young man and a cat had once sincerely made a wish for him in front of a great god in southern Xin Jiang. This was probably the happiest moment he could remember because he had a brother and a chubby cat.
The black cat carried the white deer carving and placed it in his hands. “Child, although you mortals do not believe in the White Deer God, you are this old man’s child, Fu Lan’s brother, and the White Deer God will definitely bless you. This deer was carved by your brother and is now being given to you. It will bless you with safety and a long life.”
Qi Yin stroked the deer’s texture and smiled. “When I learn how to control a sword, can I go with you guys to southern Xin Jiang?”
The black cat’s eyes lit up. “Do you really want to?”
Fu Lan also stared at him in surprise.
“Of course.” Qi Yin put his hands behind his head and leaned back. “I haven’t been to southern Xin Jiang yet. Can I go see the sunset over Jia Ling River, the night rain in Wu Xia Gorge, the eternal night sky in Jiu Gai, and the magic dragon bones in the Abyssal Mountains?” Drowsiness overcame him, and his voice became as low as a murmur, “Can I see all of them?”
The orange light made his profile serene and his deep eyebrows and eyes blend in with the light. Somehow, Fu Lan’s emotions were stirred up, and the ripples spread out like waves, then dissipated. The sunsets in the Ba Mountains, the years of night rain in Wu Xia Gorge, and the eternal night sky in Jiu Gai were all flung away by him into the black and gray bones of the magic dragon in the deep valley of the Abyssal Mountains, becoming a mundane part of his ordinary life.
But at this moment, he suddenly had a new yearning, to go there again with Xiao Yin.
He nodded vigorously and whispered, “Yeah, let’s go together.”
1. Feng Huo Qing He – a famous idiom in Chinese that refers to a peaceful and harmonious scene. The phrase can be translated as “the wind and fire are clear, the river runs tranquil,” which implies a state of calm and balance in nature.
2. Wu Fang Yuan Yin – a concept from traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine that suggests that the universe and all things within it can be explained by five elements or phases: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.
3. Qiankun Pouch – a mythical object in Chinese folklore that is said to have the ability to hold anything, regardless of size or weight.