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Inside a luxurious box of the Westland KTV…
Tang Xiu sat cross-legged in front of a zither. His hands gently caressed and stroked the zither made of the best quality Yellow Rosewood material. The zither’s body was shining with a delicate ornate carving and meticulous workmanship. It also had its seven strings already deployed properly.
The zither was highly regarded in Chinese culture and considered as the noblest instrument. There was even a saying that, “wherever the gentleman is seated, there must be a zither to the left and books to the right” [1]. It was also included as the first in the Four Arts of Chinese culture: which were the zither, Go, calligraphy and painting; as most of the refined scholars also regarded it as the most elegant representative of all.
Tang Xiu also had a zither. It was one of the top-notch immortal devices in the Immortal World. Its wooden body was made of Phoenix tree with strings made of the tendons of the Five Clawed Golden Dragon. After which, it was nourished with the blood essence of certain Supremes in the Immortal World for nearly ten thousand years; and was also tempered within the Nine Dark Ice Pool and Earthly Fire Source for a few hundreds of years. Even if it were ordinary Immortals, they would be able to kill high-level celestial beings if they could get their hands on the zither.
“Tang Xiu, can you really play the zither?”
Cheng Yannan came over in front of the zither as she asked with a curious expression on her beautiful face.
Tang Xiu came back from the recollection of his memories and said softly, “Ah, I did learn some before.”
A trace of doubt and contempt was revealed on Cheng Yannan’s eyes as she said with a smile, “It’s alright. Even if you can’t play and sing well with the instrument, we won’t laugh at you.”
Yuan Chuling also followed the noise and said, “Yep, we won’t mock you, Eldest Brother. Absolutely! Besides, you’ll still be regarded as a multi-talented person even if your play isn’t good enough. It’s just kinda a pity that you don’t play guitar, though. Else, you could’ve been able to charm those eye-catching and elegant pretty chicks.”
Cheng Yannan, Xia Wanfen, and Li Xiaoqian were amused and burst into laughter by Yuan Chuling’s comments.
Then, the door to the box was pushed open from the outside.
“Well, well, all of you look very happy. Any happy things you’re talking about?”
Chen Xiaofen smiled and looked at the five people inside the room. There was also a bit of scrutiny in her eyes as her sight finally fell on Tang Xiu who sat cross-legged.
Xia Wanfen approached to greet as she said with a smile, “Aunt Chen, we were talking about Tang Xiu’s skill with the zither! But well, he’s acting modestly even to us…”
“Is that Tang Xiu whom you told me about? Well, he’s quite young. Nowadays, the people who can play the zither are getting fewer, it’s much scarcer for boys. Come here, I’ll introduce you to some people. These three are my good sisters. They’re teachers from the Regal Classical Music Academy in the provincial capital.” Chen Xiaofen said with a faint smile.

“How do you do teachers!”
The three girls along with Yuan Chuling greeted them.
Tang Xiu didn’t get up. He just nodded slightly toward Chen Xiaofen while his eyes only swept over Huang Jie and the other two women. Tonight, he was just out to have some leisure and entertainment; he was quite reluctant to join in the fun with strangers. However, Chen Xiaofen was the Proprietress of this KTV, and it would be rude if he refused.
_“I should leave as fast as possible.”_ Tang Xiu thought.
Upon seeing Tang Xiu’s attitude, Huang Jie and the two others slightly knitted their brows. They were accustomed to having students treating them with respectful manners. And they felt Tang Xiu wasn’t pleasant to the eyes after seeing such indifferent manner from him. However, Tang Xiu was but only a passer-by in their eyes, while they were only here just to join in on the fun.
The three then sat on the other side of the sofa. Huang Jie glanced at Tang Xiu before she called out to Chen Xiaofen, “Haven’t you said that some people will play an instrument and sing in your KTV? How haven’t you started now? We sisters are musicians ourselves, so we can give some pointers to these students.”
Upon hearing the words of her sisters with some flavor of mockery and teasing in it, Chen Xiaofen was secretly amused inside. She also felt that Tang Xiu’s indifferent attitude was quite inappropriate. At the moment, she too could feel the dissatisfaction from her sisters as they prepared to give some lessons to Tang Xiu, which was probably to bring him down a notch.
In other departments, perhaps these sisters of hers couldn’t teach Tang Xiu. But in the music department, they were absolutely the ones with the authority to do that at the moment.
Cheng Yannan, Yuan Chuling and the other two also understood the meaning behind Huang Jie’s words as they turned around to look at Tang Xiu.
However, Tang Xiu still wore his indifferent expression. But in the end, he didn’t look at Huang Jie and the other two women, even once. Along with the quiet atmosphere inside the box, he looked down to face the zither in front of him.
A clear zither’s sound came out as his slender fingers fiddled with its string.
In the next moment…
The flashing radiance in his eyes disappeared as he closed them. With his right hand on the strings and his left one forming the chord, the tips of his fingers moved in an unusual fingering style. His right hand moved on the strings; picking, releasing, scraping, beating, plucking, rubbing, locking… while his left hand moved up and down; advancing and returning back, moving back and repeating, reciting and scratching, fomenting and bending his finger, pulling, strapping, clawing, knocking, drawing, hooking; as his fingers continued fiddling with the strings.
Within the haziness of the mood…
All of Tang Xiu’s fingers stroke the zither, giving off the charming rhyme as though running water. From the zither, desolate and dreary symphony came out, leaving the flavor of trembling autumn wind behind. The rhythm was slow, and yet, it gave off the feeling of melancholic and desolateness.
A few seconds after the zither’s sound came out, Huang Jie who was feeling quite the antipathy toward Tang Xiu was shocked. The Proprietress of the KTV—Chen Xiaofen’s body turned stiff, as though being struck with electricity; while the eyes of the other two teachers of the Regal Classics Music Academy, were contracted. Their eyes were locked on Tang Xiu and didn’t move, even a bit.
It was a soul-touching symphony. The four of them had high attainments in the musical department and were specialists in the field. The mellow melody of the zither stirred up their hearts with the feeling of anxiousness as it pulled them in into the world filled with melancholic autumn wind and fallen leaves everywhere.
The feeling of yearning…
Of homesickness…
And the longing to see his own parents…
They were as though seeing themselves drifting, floating along with the current and traveling far away from home; as they were standing at the end of a narrow-winding path in the late autumn, looking into the distance from a higher ground toward the direction of their hometown. They were as if good, well-behaved children who looked at a certain place with their hearts filled with filial-piety. And yet, the desolate world forced them to turn direction; while they were worrying about their warm, caring mothers in their hometown.
_"The autumn rain is falling with the missing of the beloved one, worrying about the son in the remembrance…_
A deep and low hoarse voice, along with the symphony of the zither lingered around. There was no towering and abrupt feeling within as everything harmoniously blended into one, creating a kind of sorrowful atmosphere as though the air was gradually filled with a floating, greenish black mist.
_ “The journey to immortality is never-ending, with an undecided will and faltering…_
The scene changed as if they were now seeing a vast path that led to an extremely high mountain summit. A young man with an Immortal sword stood there, struggling to advance forward; and yet, stopped advancing for each step forward as he turned his head, looking at a certain distance from the high place.
_“To the sky, I looked up and asked; to the earth, I looked down and talked; as ten thousands of years unhindered I walked. The Underworld of Hades I trampled on; The Highest of the Heavens I stamped on; for the path to the Gate of Heaven, I bitterly sought to knock on. The regrets inside the soul linger, longing for the wish so difficult to appear, for returning back to those moments I deeply desire…_
For a moment…
Huang Jie, Chen Xiaofen, and the other women’s hearts trembled. It was as if they were inside a dreamland; within the embodiment of the Yellow Springs of the Underworld, with the Supreme Immortals of the Ninth Heaven above them. Painfully, they were seeking the path to Heaven’s door, only wanting to find a beacon light and be able to find the path that led home.
The sadness and the sorrows, the sufferings and the longings…
Hundreds ups and downs turned into thousands of anxiety and worries as the feelings lingered inside their souls. Along down their cheeks, two lines of tears flowed down and wetted their front clothes.
Yuan Chuling was shaken; while Cheng Yannan, Xia Wanfen and Li Xiaoqian, were as though struck with goosebumps. As though being hypnotized and dazed, they listened to the zither music that was gradually getting faster from slow, and from the slow play to the stormy one. They listened to Tang Xiu’s singing from the beginning of the deep and hoarse voice to the venting-like screaming roar.
Sitting in front of the zither, Tang Xiu’s fingers that fiddled with the strings were getting faster and faster. It was as though he returned back to the time when he was playing the zither in the Immortal World. His feelings and emotions were blended into it. The emotions of the arduous and difficult Immortal Path and the longing feeling to be with the parents were the most vivid emotions that blended into his zither play.
Gradually, the sound of the zither subsided along with the passing time…
Tang Xiu slowly raised his head and slowly opened his eyes, as a trace of warm, sparkling and translucent tears dripped down from the corner of his eyes. His blurred sight gradually became clear. As he saw the people inside the box with each and every one of them had tears streaming down their faces, his heart was filled with happiness.
Yes, he felt happy inside!
He was once a Supreme in the Immortal World. However, if he were to be given choices, he’d rather choose to give up such an aloof and remote standing, as well as abandon his heaven-shaking strength. He’d rather turn back into an ordinary person and return to his mother’s side. Helping and accompanying her, serving her before she went to bed when she grew older, taking care of her in her aged time, and arranging a proper burial after she died.
After a long while...
Chen Xiaofen finally sobered up from the world made of the zither music. With her blurred vision, she watched Tang Xiu who was not only with tears but also slightly smiling. Her heart suddenly throbbed. The zither music touched her, as each and every tone within held her heart captivated. Never had she thought that such a wonderful zither play would exist in the world. It was as though filled with mesmerizing charm, and she couldn’t help but immerse herself within.
She looked at him, but nothing came up as how to express her feeling. Of countless words she could say, eventually manifested into only two words: “Thank you!”
After Huang Jie came out of the aftereffect of the music, she looked at Chen Xiaofen who was looking at her with a somewhat angry expression. She turned around toward Tang Xiu—albeit reluctantly; as a deep sense of shame made her almost find a hole to hide.
A moment ago, she was boasting that she would give some pointers to Tang Xiu. However, within just a blink of an eye, Tang Xiu’s zither play subdued her. She was a professional musician as well as a specialist in the field. A Music Academy’s teacher who should’ve acted by example. And as a teacher, she actually judged a zither Grandmaster with contempt. Such a narrow-minded thought was something she deeply regretted.
“I’m really sorry!”
Huang Jie walked forward for a few steps as she faced Tang Xiu and apologized with a deep bow.
At this moment…
The other people inside the box also sobered up as though they were just woken up from a dream. They looked at Tang Xiu with a shocked expression as if they were coming across something inconceivable.
“Eldest Brother, you’re…”
Yuan Chuling’s lips wiggled a few times. His voice stopped in his throat, as even he didn’t realize that his attitude toward Tang Xiu became more respectful. It was a kind of respectful gesture and expression from the manifestation of worship that came from the heart.
The tears from Cheng Yannan, Xia Wanfen, and Li Xiaoqian’s faces had already disappeared. But it was as though their tears had washed their eyes as it turned particularly bright at the moment. Previously, they were also full of contempt, doubting Tang Xiu’s skill in playing the zither because they had never listened to his zither play before.
At this time, they looked at Tang Xiu as if they were looking at an Emperor or a superstar.
“This song must be belonged to heaven. Where would one be able to hear it in the human world?”
One of the teachers of the Regal Classical Music Academy looked at Tang Xiu with a complex expression as she said with a deep sigh.
Tang Xiu stood up slowly and said with a tranquil expression, “It’s quite late, I should go back home now.”
Chen Xiaofen and Huang Jie called out at the same time.
After they said it, the two women realized that they were losing their manners and quickly wiped the tears from their eyes.
Huang Jie stood in front of Tang Xiu as she carefully looked at him and said with a sincere expression, “Your name is Tang Xiu, a student from Star City First High School, correct? Are you going to attend the College Entrance Test soon?”
Tang Xiu nodded.
Huang Jie hastily responded, “You don’t need to take the College Entrance Test. Just directly come to our Regal Classical Music Academy! My husband is a Vice President there and he has a special quota privilege to invite some students. You don’t need to take any tests, just come to our Regal Classical Music Academy and you can directly study there. I can vouch and guarantee for you, and it absolutely won’t be a problem…”
* * *
[0] A Chinese ancient zither is called Guqin. I chose to translate it to zither not ancient zither or guqin for the sake of localization and simplicity, even though I know that a Guqin is kinda different than a zither…
[1] Well, the paragraph kinda makes me ponder for quite a while. But I came up with such a line that wherever a gentleman was seated there must have a zither to the left and the books to the right; even though the raws said that there was no reason for a gentleman to remove the zither and lute for no reason…”. It’s much closer to the meaning than the literal translation.
[2] This is one hell of a chapter… The feeling and the nuances… the lyrics… don’t ask me how I came up with such a rhyme for the song’s lyrics, though… took me 3 hours for the lyric alone.

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