“Chickens ah! Cheap, cheap, cheap!”
Shouts, laughter and the sound of crying children filled the marketplace. Plum Blossom City was a bustling place as it was near the immortal mountains which cultivators flocked to. Every few months there were immortal tournaments and once every year grand summits were held.
It was in this city that Lin Quan had travelled to and brought his mother and two younger brothers along. He sat himself on a mat and put out a sign: “Servant for hire. Lots of experience. Can read. Can write. Open for negotiation.”
Beside the youth, his mother peered around anxiously. “Son, are you sure about this?”
Lin Quan snorted. “Where else can we fetch a high price for servants? Mother, this is where all the immortal cultivators flock to. Once I’m a servant, you’ll have enough money for a few years in our hometown and a small business besides. I’ll also be able to send more things back.”
Lin Quan had been a servant for a number of years. Coupled with his strict and terse nature, he did everything well and neatly. His former master had recently passed away and his children had moved to other estates. Before they set him off on his own again, the master’s children had written him a letter commending his work and good service. It was also this letter that Lin Quan had positioned next to his sign with pride.
Soon, a jolly-faced uncle came by. He took a look at the sign and the letter and sighed. “Ah, it’ll be too expensive for me. But you’re fortunate today, young man. Guess who’s coming down the mountains this morning?”
“Who?” asked Lin Quan, curious.
“There’s been talk of a new Peak Lord forming a new sect,” said the uncle, smiling. “He’ll be officially establishing a sect in the next month or two, so he’s coming down today with another peak lord to get his peak ready for disciples. I heard that right now he’s looking for servants. You’ll surely do!”
Lin Quan and his mother grinned at each other. This was news!
Sure enough, later that morning, two men wearing immortal robes walked by. One was tall and handsome with the air of a gentle stream, while the other one was an old man with a long white beard and shining skin. They peered down at Lin Quan’s sign and letter and smiled.
“Very good,” said the old man kindly. “Tell us, what can you do?”
“I can cook, wash, sweep, look after children, look after livestock, look after expenses, mend fences, plant herbs, plant vegetables, give good massages and also keep log books,” said Lin Quan, counting off his fingers. “I can also mend clothes and shoes if you like.”
“Wonderful! Better than a mother!” exclaimed the old man. “Just what you need, Sun Wu!”
“Ehhh, don’t say it like that,” laughed the young immortal, rubbing the back of his head with an easy-going grin. He looked at Lin Quan and his mother. “How much are you asking for?”
That afternoon itself, Lin Quan folded up his mat and waved his mother and brothers goodbye from his master’s floating canoe.
“Look after mother,” he called, waving at them. “See that you study hard and become officials someday!”
“Goodbye, big brother!” shouted the boys. “Go nag at your new master instead!”
“Huh? Nag?” Sun Wu’s placid eyes grew round for a moment.
“Never mind that,” said Lin Quan, waving his new master’s doubts away. “It’s just children talking.”
The old immortal who was travelling with them chuckled and stroked his beard. It seemed like Sun Wu, his beloved disciple nephew, was off to a good start.
When they got to the peak, there was already a gate ready and some structures set up. There was a small main hall and a dining hall, a tiny training pavilion, a few rooms to sleep in, a small herb garden, a well and a kitchen. These were the bare essentials for starting a new sect – for now they were empty, and Sun Wu and Lin Quan were the only two people there. It was not yet time to receive disciples.
As disciples needed to cultivate a core before they became immortal, they still needed to eat and defecate. Therefore, a small toilet was set up several pathways away near the end of the mountain. They were cleaned up not by people but by certain wildlife that ate excrement, so all Lin Quan had to do was scrub it clean once in a while.
“Hmph, makes things a bit easier,” said Lin Quan, folding his arms. It wasn’t too bad being a servant of a peak lord. Now he knew why servants in immortal sects acted high and mighty!
Little did Lin Quan know that his problems were only just beginning.
About two days later, after Lin Quan had settled in, his master, Sun Wu, called him to the main hall. The man smiled at him with the air and grace of a peak lord, and Lin Quan bowed low.
“Lin Quan, in about a month our sect will have a small officiating banquet,” said Sun Wu, his sleeves flapping regally behind him. “I’ll need you to help prepare everything so we can receive other peak lords.”
“Yes, master,” said Lin Quan, continuing to bow. “When can I begin, and how much is your budget?”
“Ah, well, this…” replied Sun Wu, suddenly smiling helplessly. “I, uh… I only have this box left.”
Lin Quan slowly lifted his face.
Sun Wu had placed a box on the table, grinning like a sheep. When he opened it up there were only a bag of seeds and a few coins inside. A brown moth came fluttering out of the box.
“I seriously thought I had a good hand that day, hahaha……” the man laughed, rubbing the back of his head. “Lin… Lin Quan? Why… why is your face so black…?”