People were rarely found in desolate and barren regions, not fit for agriculture.
Briars and vines were everywhere; there were the only things that could grow on this dried up land. The sun didn’t show any mercy either. Whether it be the sparse vegetation or the occasional bird and fish, all had to hide under the breeze and gasped for air.
Everything was fading away in this place. Though there was minor vegetation as decoration, anything with true life seemed to be waiting for death.
It was as if nothing wanted to live any longer, that there was nothing worth pursuing in this world. As one tried to find solace from the scorching sun, they would inevitably feel the urge to bury themselves here and die. No point in continuing to live.
In such a bleak place was a flat plain in the middle of a ridge. There were sogon grasses and sharp weeds throwing everywhere, surrounding a hut with the frame made out of old trees and stuck them together with mud. The rest was covered with tree barks, resulting in a very primitive hut.
From the house, one could extrapolate the level of poverty its master was suffering, a life of destitution.
The door was slightly opened and would quietly creak at the slightest breeze.
There was a path in front of the house but calling it a path was the polite way of putting it. It was covered in briars with no visible pathway but because people could walk through it, it could still barely qualify as a path.
This remote path finally had a traveler today. A youth was pushing through the bushes from the base to this hut at the ridge.
This was naturally Li Qiye who smiled after seeing the hut. There was a vegetable and potato farm right next to the hut.
An old man was working on the field. He wasn’t that old, only around fifty if he was a mortal. However, he also appeared weather-beaten with a sad temperament.
His gray robe was turning white from being repeatedly washed. Due to the long years, it became old and dirty despite his meticulous effort.
There weren’t that many wrinkles on his face but his complexion was yellow while the rest of his skin was tanned. From this, one could see that he lacked proper nutrition on top of working on the farm for many years now.
He brushed his sparse, gray hair every day but they still became a bit disorderly from working.
When he opened his mouth, one would find that there weren’t that many teeth left. Even the ones left were stained and had cavities.
This old man lived in this desolate place, working in the day and resting during the night. He relied on this little plot of land to barely not starve to death while living one day at a time.
Just imagine, an old man living all alone without neighbors, friends, or any children to speak of in this desolate place. Toiling on the yellow soil during the day while sleeping on his bleak wooden bed at night; such a poor and lonely way to live.
He was swinging his old hoe at the moment by the sweet potato section. Due to his old age, each swing took a lot of effort. A young one could dig up enough soil to get a potato out with one swing while he needed at least eight for the same result.
After doing so, he squatted down to flatten the area and threw the potato into an old bamboo basket. He gasped for air from exhaustion after taking each potato out.
Li Qiye chuckled after seeing this and didn’t go strike up a conversation. Instead, he began picking up the potatoes and put them into the basket.
Just like that, the old man worked the soil with his hoe while Li Qiye searched for potatoes. He would need to rest after three to five swings but Li Qiye was having fun with his scavenging game.
The two worked flawlessly together without uttering a single word. It was as if this was how it should be, the normality of things.
After half a day, the old man managed to get out six to seven pieces. He grabbed the basket and hoe before returning to his hut.
Li Qiye came in uninvited and was met with a dark scene despite it being the day. It wouldn’t be easy to get acquainted with the sudden change.
There weren’t that many things in the hut, nothing inessential. There was a wooden bed to the left and the blanket had black spots despite being constantly washed. To the right was the kitchen stove with a rusty pot on top.
Next to the window was a table that could seat two or three people. All meals and tea time were done on this table.
Li Qiye sat down on this simple table and looked at the wildlands outside on top of the sickly vegetation while resting his chin on his hands. He eventually fell into a drowsiness.
The old man had started a fire to boil the potatoes. The flame on the stove might be the only thing that can survive in this place. When it jumped, it lets the spectators know that they were still alive.
The old man sat motionlessly in front of the stove and occasionally added some sogon grasses to the fire. He was just like a withered tree without any emotion; his only goal in life was to wait for death.
A long time passed in this grim manner. This was eventually interrupted by the sweet fragrance of the potatoes, bringing life to this world. The growling of the hungry stomach was replaced with a newfound strength after smelling the potatoes.
The sleepy Li Qiye finally opened his eyes and sat straight.
The old man placed the boiled potatoes into a pan and brought it to the table. Before he could even sit down, Li Qiye took the first one without any hesitation and ate it after peeling off the skin.
The old man did the same except he ate very slowly as if his teeth were failing him.
Li Qiye spoke after he filled his stomach with one potato: “Some people want to leave the rowdy scenes but not in this solitude. At the very least, he would have an old man selling meat-bun or an old woman selling salt. I suppose that such a life isn’t so lonely, just one way of making it through. However, your world lacks any inhabitants, not this salt-selling woman or meat-bun vendor. Only you are around.”
The old man continued to eat as if he wasn’t used to expressing himself.
“This is the apex of solitude.” Li Qiye smiled wryly: “Emperors might be hiding in the Exploration Ground but they are still famous with peerless prestige. This is only a type of avoidance from the Heavenly Execution. But today, when we’re sitting here eating potatoes, this is the ultimate seclusion.”
The old man continued to eat without responding. In fact, he didn’t even remember the last time he had a conversation.
Li Qiye grabbed another potato and took his time eating. After finishing, he looked up and asked: “When are you going to die?”
The old man was relishing this meal that didn’t come by easily so he put all of his heart into eating.
After a long time, he finally licked his fingers and said: “I don’t know, I’m still waiting for the day of death.”
Li Qiye smiled and shook his head: “I see. Your only reason for living is to wait for death. Back in the nine worlds, I told the kid from the Yu Clan that you also have a shop with wine even worse than his horse-urine crap. His waiting for death is nothing like this since he had many things he could see in the mundane world. You’re taking it to the next level though by inhibiting all your senses. Alas, it’s not that easy to die.”