Before they knew it, they had been in Yuzhou for half a month and had already had their fill of sauntering around.
One day, the three disciples finished their martial arts practice, ate breakfast, then went out to look around.
At this time of day, only a few shops were open, and spatterings of people rushed about as some shop owners called out to customers, creating a somewhat tranquil atmosphere wholly different from the bustle of the daytime.
Jiang Ling sought out a tea stall by the street side to sit down and wile away some free time.
“Ding, ding, ding…” The sound of bells broke the tranquility of the scene.
Jiang Ling turned her gaze in the direction of the sound, and she soon saw a line of camels.
Dazzling in the light of the early morning sun, each camel had a small bell hanging around its neck, a beautiful saddle between its humps, and bundled supplies hanging on either side.
With each step, a ‘ding-dong” jingle resonated melodiously, grabbing the attention of passers-by.
It was a caravan from the western regions.
The person in the lead was tall in stature, their head wrapped in a scarlet head-covering and their neck covered by a piece of white silk.
When they pulled up that piece of white silk to shade their face, one could vaguely see from the features remaining exposed that they had a different appearance than that of someone from the central plains.
On their wrist, there was even a dark blue beaded bracelet.
Compared to the methods of dress of the central plains, this person was a little overstated.
Jiang Ling leaned over to take a look, and she found that most of the people from the western regions were dressed this way.
This was the first time she had seen foreigners, and Jiang Ling was unconsciously staring absent-mindedly, completely forgetting about common courtesy.
A piece of carnelian-colored jade caught Jiang Ling’s eye, making her self-awareness return.
Lifting her gaze, she saw that it was a pair of amber-colored irises.
She had never seen eyes in that shade before.
Sparking in the sunlight was that carnelian-colored jade, hung on a silver chain, dangling on the forehead of a beautiful and spirited woman.
The woman had a section of hair braided tightly to her scalp on either side of her head, with the rest of her hair loosely cascading down behind her.
A few long, thin braids hung loose by her veiled face.
She was clad in a white and red robe, but this robe had a different kind of elegance than robes from the central plains.
It was sleeveless, the exposed, slender arms revealing a metallic bangle and a carnelian bracelet.
She saw her eyes and brow curve as she said: “Excuse me little lady, how do I get to Shengping Inn?” She spoke the language of the central plains very standardly, her words crisp and clear.
Shengping Inn was where the three disciples were currently staying.
Having heard the question, she pointed: “Go this way.
Pass two streets, and you will see a large dyehouse.
Once you pass the dyehouse, you will see the inn.”
“Thank you.” The woman turned her head to say some words to her companions in her native language, which Jiang Ling did not understand.
All of those big, tall people regarded her with extreme deference, and it seemed like the leader of the caravan was this woman.
Once they finished speaking, the woman waved her hand in farewell.
The attendant by her side saluted Jiang Ling, then followed the woman into the city.
As the ringing sounds of the bells gradually got further and further away, Jiang Ling felt like she woke up from a stupor.
“Do all women from the western regions have eyes like that?” Jiang Ling saw that the iris color of the woman’s attendants and people of the central plains are about the same.
Upon closer inspection, the color is somewhat bland, unlike the woman’s, who’s eyes were, at one glance, different from any other’s.
“Yuzhou even has caravans from foreign lands?” The tea server’s eyes were wide.
It was evidently his first time seeing foreigners, as well.
“Seventeen years ago, there were many.
Later, Manichaeism was pushed back by the unified effort of the Blue Mountain Sect and the other three major Daoist sects, and they returned west of Longxi.
In recent years, there were rumors that they wanted to rebuild their relationship with Wulin, and they consequently started coming back.
The caravans of the western regions also caught wind of this rumor and thought to earn some money.” The owner was a gray-haired, grizzled old man, like a living piece of history.
The servers let out an “oh,” not really understanding.
Jiang Ling had heard Yun Yangzi mention this too.
Twenty-five years ago, Manichaeism arrived from the western regions, and people from the central plains and western regions frequently crossed paths.
Originally, those from the western regions and the sects of the central plains took a mutually noninterventionist approach, and for a few years, everything was peaceful.
Who knew that Manichaeism would spread so rapidly, its crowd of believers increasing sharply.
The teachings of Manichaeism were different from the strict regulations of the central plains sects, and the followers of these sects were a mixed bag of good and bad.
The common people and other smaller sects have both received their share of harms from those bad apples.
The leader, Azar, who did not know any martial arts, gradually developed an inner demon1 and, ignoring the warnings of the central plains sects, stubbornly clung to his path of domination, finally resulting in Luyi-zhenren gathering together the Daoists sects to deal him a severe injury, after which he entered seclusion seventeen years ago.
The Manichaens then returned to their homeland, and Luyi-zhenren, who had lost his beloved disciples, likewise entered seclusion and passed the mantle of sect leader to his eldest disciple, Liu Qi, Yun Yangzi’s shixiong.
From then on, he took no interest in the affairs of the world.
Jiang Ling thought of how the foreign caravan was moving into the Shengping Inn and how there was an opportunity to meet again, and she immediately set off to return to the inn.
Sure enough, the camels were already settled in the back courtyard, eating feed, and in the central area of the inn, people from the western regions ate breakfast and conversed in a language she did not understand.
No matter where she looked, she did not see the woman from earlier.
“Hey, have you seen? It’s my first time seeing people from the western regions!” At some point, Gu Yun had materialized next to Jiang Ling, a snack in hand and mouth flapping as he explained the novelty.
“I saw them earlier.
The ignorant always find something to marvel at.” Jiang Ling threw Gu Yun a glance like he was a bumpkin fresh from the countryside.
Even though they were two of the same kind, Jiang Ling felt that, because she saw the foreigners fifteen minutes prior, she was still more worldly than Gu Yun.
“Disgraceful girl, not showing any respect for your elders.” Gu Yun pushed her head, pulling Jiang Ling with one hand as he said: “I went out shopping and got you and shijie some snacks made of glutinous rice that the locals call a ‘sticky rice cake.’ They’re delicious, come try some.”
He simultaneously spoke and dragged Jiang Ling back to the room.
1 心魔, i.e.
heart demon, negative emotions or attachments that prevent breakthroughs in cultivation/martial arts
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