Chapter 8 Seeking Shelter at Huanglong
Yan Liqiang had trouble sleeping throughout the night. This being the first night of his reincarnation, he lay in bed, lost in thought as he pondered over everything that happened before.
Especially after midnight had passed, the wound on his body inflicted by Hong Tao’s Iron Palm was still burning with pain, as though someone was roasting him under a bonfire. This made it that much more difficult for him to fall asleep, as he tossed and turned restlessly in bed. At the same time, he was also grateful that Hong Tao had yet to cultivate his Iron Palm to a higher realm. It was rumored that should the wielder of the Iron Palm ever cultivate this technique to a high enough level, that palm would be capable of destroying and burning a person’s internal organs upon impact, which allowed the wielder to easily claim the lives of their enemies in battle. What’s more, the force from the Iron Palm was capable of causing great injury to one’s lungs. So even if a person were to survive getting hit by the Iron Palm, a permanent injury would remain in their lungs, one which was very difficult to cure.
Just like that, his mind was occupied with both his state of discomfort, and thinking over all that had occurred to him. And so before he realized it, soon the first cry of the rooster flew into his ears. Outside, the sky was still dark. This was usually the time when Yan Liqiang would wake up to begin his training.
Yan Liqiang quickly got up from his bed. After washing up, he changed into another set of clothes. He ate his breakfast with Yan Dechang and Mother Yu, and afterward, he carried his packed luggage on his back, before heading out to rein the rhinodrake steed from the stable and setting up the saddle. Yan Dechang sat in front on the rhinodrake steed, while Yan Liqiang sat behind him with his hands wrapped around Yan Dechang’s waist. Both of them rode the rhinodrake steed out of the residence.
Atop the rhinodrake steed’s head was a horn not too different from that of a rhinoceros's. Its skin was rock solid, covered in a faintly visible layer of scales. Ordinarily, a rhinodrake steeds’ back was usually two meters in height, with limbs that were lanky and powerful. They appeared to be larger than ordinary horses by more than half their size. So if an ordinary horse were placed before a rhinodrake steed, it would be no different from placing a Suzuki Alto in front of an Audi. It was simply not possible to compare the two. This rhinodrake steed was the single most expensive object within Yan Liqiang’s household.
Although this rhinodrake steed hadn’t been the best in stock when they first bought it, it still could not be considered as too bad. To the rhinodrake steed, it could effortlessly gallop while supporting two people.
For ordinary households, even if they wanted to learn horsemanship or undergo martial arts training, the majority would opt to buy ordinary horses instead. When it came to ordinary horses, apart from being able to ride them, they could also assist in performing various tasks and were easier to rear. However, what Yan Dechang chose to buy was the far more expensive, rhinodrake steed. The price required to purchase one was practically the equivalent of buying five ordinary horses. Yan Liqiang had once asked Yan Dechang for the reason behind his purchase of the rhinodrake steed. To which Yan Dechang had replied by telling him that all cavalry troops had a rhinodrake steed to ride off to war and moreover, those who trained in the spear arts would most definitely have a rhinodrake steed to ride in the future. Recalling that scene, Yan Liqiang was once again rendered speechless.
Yan Dechang had spared no effort in his investment of Yan Liqiang.
By the time the two of them left their house, the sky had already brightened up quite a bit. Quite a number of people were already awake—martial art practitioners, merchants of small businesses, and people selling vegetables—all of which were making their way through Liuhe Town’s pathways.
When the people on the road saw Yan Liqiang and his father riding out on their rhinodrake steed, each and every one of them wore a slightly odd expression on their face.
Even without saying anything, Yan Liqiang could tell with just one glance alone, that yesterday’s news of his crushing defeat had already been widely spread throughout Liuhe Town.
"Have you heard? Blacksmith Yan’s son was severely injured by the young master of the Hong Clan during the county seat’s martial arts preliminary exam yesterday…"
"I’ve heard he even coughed up blood and fainted. A couple of his bones were even fractured. He shouldn’t be able to do much for the next few months!"
"Blacksmith Yan’s son has always been revered as the best. It seems to me that Hong Clan’s young master is even more amazing!"
As they were listening to the idle gossip coming from the jobless people by the road, Yan Dechang’s expression turned increasingly sour. He had no choice but to put on a cold front and shake the reins in his hand, prompting the rhinodrake steed to move faster.
The two of them had just passed the town’s entrance when they suddenly crossed paths with Butcher Liu and his son who were also driving a bullock cart. Apparently, they had just come out using another of the town’s pathways. Both pairs of father and son had just so happened to bump into one another at the town’s entrance coincidentally.
"Hehe… if it isn’t Blacksmith Yan? Why are you heading out so early with your son? You’re not rushing to the medical hall right now, are you?" As Butcher Liu caught sight of Yan Dechang and Yan Liqiang, a smile had instantly formed on his face. Both he and his fat, useless son fixated their gazes on Yan Liqiang as they gloated over his defeat.
When they were younger, Butcher Liu’s son had constantly been punched by Yan Liqiang. And due to the children’s conflict, the Yan and Liu families had always remained at odds with each other.
"My son has never been better! Who says we’re going to the medical hall?"
"Hahaha! I already know about what happened to Liqiang in the preliminary exams. In fact, the Hong Clan is going to host a banquet just for that occasion. Just last night, the steward of Hong Clan paid me a little visit. Since the Hong Clan has booked up so many pig heads, I decided to rush off first thing in the morning to collect all the pigs outside of town…" said Butcher Liu in all earnestness, immensely proud of himself. "I’ve already said it before—when it comes to martial arts training, it’s not something suitable for just anyone. Common folks like us should only treat the martial arts as a method to strengthen our bodies. Don’t think too deeply about it. It’s not that easy to become a Martial Warrior. In the entirety of Liuhe Town, only Old Master Hong is a Martial Warrior. As for the rest of us, we should just focus on what we’re supposed to do. Take my son as an example! He should learn how to butcher a pig like me, just like how those who need to forge ironware should just forge ironware. Isn’t that good enough?"
Ever since he was young, Butcher Liu’s son would constantly complain whenever he performed the Horse Stance. In contrast to his reaction to martial arts, he would light up with joy whenever the topic of eating was brought up. In truth, he simply wasn’t cut out for martial arts. As time gradually passed, he had learned the skill of butchering pigs from his father and became a butcher. Apart from the conflict between the children of the Yan and Liu Clans, Butcher Liu took every opportunity to spread rumors saying that Yan Liqiang wasn’t cut out for martial arts. He would end up just like his own son, ultimately, learning the trade of ironware from Yan Dechang and becoming nothing but a blacksmith in the end.
In some cases, the contents of a human’s heart was truly an ugly sight to behold. If one wasn’t doing well, then they couldn’t bear to see other people doing well, either. They weren’t capable of jumping out of their own social class. But at the same time, they also couldn’t stand to see people who could climb out of their social class. The moment they discovered that there was someone at their side who showed the first sign of progress, their hearts would rage with jealousy, which they would soon follow up with attacks and slander. To some people, what brought them joy in life was seeing others in misery.
When dealing with people like Butcher Liu and his son, Yan Liqiang had no problem seeing through them with just a single glance. At this moment, he didn’t even feel like talking to them. He only gazed indifferently at the two. When dealing with these sorts of people, the only method was to use success and strength to drive them to despair until they finally respected you, even as they crawled on the ground. To leave them in despair, up till the point of being incapable of speaking aloud in his presence. Apart from this, to do anything else was meaningless.
"You don’t have to worry!" Yan Dechang replied with a cold expression on his face. He shook the reins, prompting the rhinodrake steed to quicken its pace into a gallop, leaving Butcher Liu and his son in the dust within the blink of an eye.
"Hmph…Pui!..." As his gaze trailed after the retreating figures of the Yan Clan’s father-son duo, Butcher Liu ferociously spat out a mouthful of phlegm on the ground. He laughed coldly, "I’ll wait and see just how long your Yan Clan can keep this up and how strong can your son even get in the future..."
The road they traveled on was an old route that led to the county seat. Yan Liqiang’s body hadn’t fully healed yet, and he couldn’t withstand the vigorous bouncing of the road. Even when Yan Dechang maintained a slow pace, they were still traveling faster than a bullock cart. Not even twenty minutes in, and the both of them were dismounting after having arrived at the Liuhe Dock, which wasn’t too far away from the county seat.
"When you disembark at the Huanglong County Dock, there will, of course, be someone there to fetch you. The man picking you up is roughly around the same age as me. He only has four fingers on his right hand, and just calling him Uncle Qian will do. He will make arrangements for you. You should be able to stay at Huanglong County in peace and recuperate for the time being. You won’t have to worry about us back home, and you don’t need to write any letters or even send us news. If something happens, I will come find you. The people there will notify me as well..."
Yan Dechang explained to Yan Liqiang in all seriousness as they stood at the side of the dock. After he had finished, he fished out a dense silk pouch from his clothes and stuffed it into Yan Liqiang’s arms. "In here you’ll find the money I’ve prepared for you for your journey. If there’s anything you need, just buy it, no questions asked. Don’t concern yourself about saving money when you’re out there. I’ve already placed the medicinal liquor in your bag. Remember to apply it frequently!"
"Okay! I’ll remember!"
"I believe that my son will be able to become a Martial Warrior and bring me glory in the future!" Yan Dechang heavily patted Yan Liqiang’s shoulders.
Yan Liqiang could only roughly nod his head.
After he had finished briefing Yan Liqiang, Yan Dechang sent his son off to board a cargo ship that was still unloading several bundles of wood.
"Boss Wang, this is my son. Sorry to trouble you…"
"Hahaha! What’s there to be troubled by? It’s just on the way…"
"Here are two bottles of aged wine for you and the crew to try out, to help keep warm at night…"
"Hahaha! Master Yan, you’re too courteous! Too courteous…" Boss Wang’s expression instantly lightened up as he accepted the wine.
After about ten minutes, the cargo ship began to move. One of the sails was hoisted, while a few of the crew members on the ship used a pole to push against the shore. Soon, the cargo ship moved away from the dock, sailing towards the remote distance.
Yan Dechang hadn’t left yet. Instead, he pulled the reins of the rhinodrake steed as he stood on the dock by the shore, his eyes trailing after the departing ship from beginning until the end.
The ship had sailed far away on the waters, and the dock had gradually vanished from Yan Liqiang’s line of sight, but he could still see the silhouette of a hazy figure still standing at the side of the dock.
He was struck with an indescribable emotion, his heart welling up with an overwhelming feeling of exhilaration.
After living there for so long, this was the first time that Yan Liqiang had left the Qinghe County. For the past fourteen years—his whole life—Yan Liqiang had never once stepped out of Qinghe County.
After going through the short-lived pain of separation, Yan Liqiang politely refused the cabin that Boss Wang had arranged for him. Instead, he sat on a pile of wood on the ship, taking in the riverbank scenery in high spirits.
For a person who had been reincarnated into this world from a life on earth during the 21st century, this world here, along with the sky and everywhere else he could see, reminded him of Shangri-la. The scenery on the riverbank resembled that of the Xixi Wetland  in nearly all aspects. Even the river water would make people remember Xu Zhimo’s ‘Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again’ .
The cargo ship wasn’t moving at that fast of a pace and was sailing in accordance with the flow of the river. A couple of the crew members even threw down their fishing lines. Not long after, the bells tied to one of the fishing lines began to ring. They pulled up the line, hooking up a large black carp measuring about a whole chi long. It thrashed around wildly, causing the crew to burst into laughter...
By the time Yan Liqiang finished eating his fish with the ship’s crew and drinking his delicious fish soup, they had already been sailing for a couple of hours, and soon came to a stop at a dock.
Huanglong County, he was here at last!