Chapter 2: The Post-Civilization Era
Translator: Mike Editor: Chrissy
The cattle seemed frightened as they rammed within their enclosure, struggling to flounce out the surrounding palings. The herdsmen promptly hopped in between the hustling horde, hooting at the cattle in an effort to secure the herds within their cells. The Tibetan Mastiffs, which had always forged a fierce and cold-blooded fa?ade, was now bending over like a bullied underdog. Their ferocious displays were no more, but instead replaced by unease and a disconcerted symphony of hoarse snarls.
At the same time, the children in the village could also be heard crying and weeping. The mothers' grinding effort to soothe the crying babies had only been proven futile.
A few elderly herders were seen praying in an all pious and sacred way. Towards the end of their prayers, they bent their old and rigid torso, kneeled down and kowtowed to the hills in the distance. All were solemn and ceremonial.
The herders were not surprised by the arrival of Chu Feng. Oftentimes, they would be visited by foreigners who wanted to spend a night in their tents.
The commotion lasted for quite a while before steadily diminishing to silence and serenity.
Gulping up many sips of the exquisite buttered tea brewed by the local herdsmen after a delightful hour spent in a hot bathing tub, Chu Feng felt much of his weariness had been ridden. In return, he gave out all the confit he had with him to the village children.
The innocent puffy faces of the children were glowing with crimson blush. It was the blush suggesting their residency at the highland plateau since birth. The blush, complemented by the constant bashful smiles on their faces, highlighted the simple and innocent nature that typically belonged to every child.
What had happened here before he came was the lingering question Chu Feng had had in mind. That it might be, as Chu Feng thought, the strange blossoms of blue Higanbana was also witnessed by the religious herdsmen and villagers. It was strange and ominous alright, but was it really the cause of this baffling commotion?
The old herder sitting huddled in the tent had a grizzled hair. The wrinkles engraved on his face were deep and sharp, serving as a foil to bring out the vicissitudes of life. He looked anxious and thoughtful. He spoke no words; he only gazed into the distance through a hole that was made into a surrogate for a window.
Soon enough, Chu Feng had learnt that as he had suspected, a blue fog did have rolled in and startled many of the livestock. The bad omen that came with the fog provoked the animals' instinct for survival. As such, they behaved in an irascible and feverish manner as they were hopelessly escaping for life.
However, no blue Higanbana was sighted, and the fog was rather thin too.
"Why did you kowtow to the hills in the distance?" asked Chu Feng.
"That is the direction of our holy mountain," the old herdsman answered.
The Kunlun Mountains had long been known as the godly mountain or the holy mountain. It carried a strong mythical overtone. From "the Classic of Mountains and Rivers" to "Huainan Zi", it had always been kept in the records of many ancient epics and fables.
In the past, the mountains were only seen surrounded by a wispy layer of mist and vapor, but in the direction of the Kunlun Mountains, many had seen fogs of an unusual thickness.
At times, the fogs rolled in like upheavals of tempestuous storms; at times, it became the translucent layer of a glittering yarn; at times, it was a sea of blue, a world illustrating surrealism. But as the lightning-like rays of the setting sun finally penetrated the thickness of the fog, it was a mixture of shining gold and saddening blue, juxtaposing one another to bring heaven down to earth.
An unparalleled degree of mystique emerged when all were veiled by the glittering blue of the dense fog. The fog floated in a rhythmic pattern, up and down, left and right. Sometimes, the glitter overpowered the sights of all visible objects, turning the mountain into all but a divine shrine shrouded in a golden aura.
Therefore, many old herders kowtowed while facing in that direction, sending their most pious prayers.
The density of the fog had never diminished in the course of time, and had always been ablaze with rays of blue sunglow. It was a spectacle more astonishing to behold than what Chu Feng had witnessed in the desert.
What had been the cause to all these anomalies? The question dawdled on Chu Feng's mind.
He recognized one possibility. It could be due to the earthquakes that frequently occurred on the lands around the mountains.
Things of uncanny similarity had happened at other places in the past. It was a canyon frequented by lightning, where no lives could enter or escape the length of the canyon unscathed.
If earthquakes happened in a mountain range, they could severely distort the magnetic field in that area, building up electric charges in the atmosphere which would then discharge. The distorted magnetic field coupled with the electric discharge would produce auroral effect, embellishing the place with a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colors to grant it characteristics deviating from any worldly existence.
Chu Feng did not believe in superstitions. He believed that most strange things that had occurred could be attributed to natural occurrences.
However, no matter how hard he explained, the old herdsmen refused to take in a word. Instead, they thought Chu Feng was blaspheming the holy mountain. Some of them treated him with a furious glare, while the others wanted him to be removed from the village.
In fact, there were certain parts of this version of explanation that Chu Feng himself found unreasonable and farfetched. For some of the eerie encounters earlier, Chu Feng could not think of a convincing plot to explain them. The coquettish flowers he saw in the desert, for instance, would certainly be the strangest amongst them.
He sighed. In this "post-civilization era", many things were left unexplained. Although people exerted themselves in trying to explain the present with the past laws, the world had nevertheless become harder and harder to be understood.
Wars humiliated half of the land that mankind had once called home, turning the earth into almost a wasteland. Despite the long and painful wait for everything to recover, the post-war world would never regain the resplendence that they once had.
In this endless course of post-civilization era, numerous major mystical mishaps had occurred, bearing huge influences on the future. However, no one could ever unlock the key to fully explain the cause of these mishaps.
The morning arrived again as the rising sun cladded in its scarlet attire sprung above the horizon. The glistening rosy clouds of dawn slid across the fields and hills, hovering above the tents and the grasslands, imbuing the world with vigor and vitality.
Having bid his farewell to the tribe, Chu Feng was once again on the road.
Journeying west, he entered the highland plateau.
He learnt, along the way, that the esoteric blue fog he encountered in the desert had a rather extensive spread range. Every town, every city, and every province he passed by had all been affected by the fog.
"It can't be a bad omen to another major mystical mishap, or could it?" Chu Feng muttered to himself.
The past few major mishaps had etched some of the most profound marks in the history, all of which had brought disturbance to the whole world.
The sky above the Tibetan Soil was especially blue. It provided the perfect accommodation to cater for the pearl-like clouds. The clouds hovered near the ground, as if they could be touched with just the reach of a hand. The Gobi Desert, the mountain, the grasslands, all provided the perfect exemplification of tranquility and serenity. This was like an inner sanctum, a piece of pure land holding itself aloof from the rest of the world.
Chu Feng had heard plenty of rumors and hearsays along the way.
Some herdsmen recounted that the Living Buddha residing in the mountains had waken from its centuries of slumber, and as a result, blue rays were seen flowing as the fog suffused the world with its ominous vapor.
Some said that the Buddha's old Banyan Tree was blooming and yielding fruit.
"The Dragon Mastiff is about to be born!" so said by many people.
For the locals, the real mastiffs were born in the wilderness of nature, and they could even hold their ground against lions and tigers. On the other hand, the domestic mastiffs kept in house could not qualify as a real mastiff. The legend said that in the Holy Mountains, a Dragon Mastiff, which appeared every hundreds of years, resided. The Dragon Mastiff had infinite might, even capable of vanquishing evil spirits.
Days later, Chu Feng had arrived near the region of the Holy Mountain.
He had learnt that every region along the way had some degrees of experience with the blue fog. The spread of this ominous spectacle could well mean the beginning of another sequence of major mishaps.
At the same time, just like that in the past, no ordinary people would learn the immanent cause of the mishaps, ever. Furthermore, no one could predict what would be the aftermath once it reached the end.
The forthcoming winter seemed to have done little to affect the setting of the Tibetan Weather. As Chu Feng progressed further into his westward journey, it felt warmer and warmer.
Days earlier, yellowed leaves were seen withering as the soil beneath was coated with decayed foliage of plants. Days later, it became a very different scene.
The remnant leaves, which had been left lifelessly hanging on the trees, seemed to have regained its vitality. No more wilting. No more withering.
Especially along the way near the Kunlun Mountains, both the wild weeds and the thorny trees looked glowing and full of energy in this lukewarm weather.
"Would the impending mishaps be the cause to the bizarre warmth of the weather?" Chu Feng conjectured.
At last, the Kunlun Mountains was finally caught in sight.
The majestic ridges formed the backbone of the mountain range, patching the mountains to form a continuous rolling landscape. The ridges gambolled like a dragon's back over the spanning mountains.
It was a magnificent sight to behold; a grand vista unmatchable by even the grandest mountains from the ancient times.
The mountains carried many legends and fables. The mystical aura surrounding the place had never faded from the earliest times to the present days.
It was initially planned that he would embark on his return journey as soon as he had entered the Tibetan Territory, however, the hearsays about some of the recent unusual happenings sighted around the Kunlun Mountains compelled him to venture out into the mountains to witness them for himself.
"It is right here."
Chu Feng arrived at where the strange incidents were reported. Standing at the foot of the mountain, Chu Feng felt not only dwarfed by the sheer scale of the place, but also defeated by its inherent vigorous virility. The lofty peaks of the mountains seemed like a grandiose city of the gods, sitting on this piece of western land, aloof from any worldly affairs.
This was only a small section of the Kunlun Mountain Range. It was here a few nights back when the blue rays were seen ablaze. Everyone nearby had witnessed it happening, but only few dared to walk near it.
Chu Feng started climbing up the mountain.
As he inclined, the path got steeper and steeper. With hulking boulders lying right across the path, the ascent became more and more difficult. The verdant vegetation along the way also seemed quite out of place in late autumn.
"Was there actually an earthquake?" Chu Feng murmured as he investigated the surrounding area.
There were many evident cracks and gaping fractures on the earth's surface. There were also boulders that had clearly fell from somewhere higher. Some of the palisades had also been fissured.
It was this particular mountain where many strange occurrences had been sighted.
"What on earth is this?"
A boulder with many deeply-engraved etchings caught Chu Feng's attention. A major part of it had sunk into the mud beneath it.
After the earthquake, a minor section of the mountain had been reshaped by landslide, emerging this boulder that had been hidden deep underground.
There was a hint of green on the boulder that looked similar to dried moss.
Chu Feng stroked the engravings on the boulder before he could recognize the two characters. It was not easy to tell just by seeing it once.
For only an instant, Chu Feng was lost in thought. He was spellbound by profound astonishment, bewildered by the revelation of these words.
How could the words "West King" not strike a chord with anyone? It was a lost legend about the Queen Mother of the West, or Hsi Wang Mu as they called it. Her existence, though never confirmed, had always been a topic of debate.
"Maybe this was an epigraph left by the ancients for people to visit and ponder on in the past," Chu Feng explained to himself as he shook his head in disbelief.
"Wait! It isn't right!"
Suddenly, he was seized with terror. As he was stroking those engravings, he realized the so-called "dried moss" was very out of place.
"It is the rust of bronze!" He was tremored by the accidental discovery.
This stone tablet had been sealed underground within the mountains for thousands of years. After careful deliberations, it seemed almost impossible to have moss grown on its surface after only days of its exposure to air and light.
What appeared to be a stone tablet was actually made of bronze!
However, it was very rare to see a slab of bronze with such an immense size.
"The Simuwu Cauldron found in the Yin Dynasty ruins only weighed less than two thousand jin, and it was entitled to be the biggest ancient artifact made of bronze. But this bronze tablet..."
Chu Feng shovelled some rocks aside. By conservative estimate, this bronze slab would weigh at least five to six thousand jin. This was indeed appalling. This hunk of slab must have been a jewel of rare workmanship back in the ancient times.
It had a beautiful layer of green patina, proving its identity as well as its age.
If it had happened to be a stone tablet, Chu Feng would have assumed its usage as a medium for people to visit and ponder on in the past. But now as it became clear that he had been, in fact, presented with a huge bronze slab, he no longer had assurance with regards to its usage.
In that ancient and remote time, who would have depleted their wealth to build a bronze slab just for pondering?