My Hermit Master

MHM Chapter 2: This Waiter Is So Awkward

“Customer—” said Xie Li.

“Stop acting,” growled Di Mie.

“How about you let go of me first?”

Di Mie let go of the waiter. “If anyone from the Border Mountains recognises you, you’ll be sent straight back to the abyss.”

“No one here knows my face,” said Xie Li.

“I do.”

“Then, do you want to ‘send me straight back to the abyss’?”

“No,” said Di Mie flatly. “I want to kick you down a bug pit.”

“That would be a problem,” said Xie Li. “I’ll need a sword. Wait, I have a morning shift here tomorrow.”

“Why are you even here?” asked Di Mie.

“I work here…?”

“Since when?”

“About two months ago.”

“I can’t do this anymore,” sighed Di Mie, taking off his hat and veil and rubbing his face in exasperation. “I think I’m tired and must have recognised the wrong person.”

Xie Li peered up, finally seeing the Fallen Leaves Valley Lord’s bare face.

“You’ve really grown up, Mie’er,” he said, with that familiar soft, gentle tone that Di Mie knew so well years ago.

“Shut up. I can’t talk to you right now. I’m going to sleep, and when I wake up, I’ll find that this is all just a bad dream,” cursed Di Mie, pushing Xie Li out the door and slamming it in his face.


It was a long night, but an even longer morning.

The two juniors came downstairs with dark circles under their eyes. They sat at a table and waved Xie Li over.

“We’d like to order three breakfast sets,” said Jianjin, the younger of the two.

“Sure,” replied Xie Li, walking to the kitchen.

“Hey, Ah-Li, come here,” says Auntie Ma, the innkeeper. She pulled him aside behind the counter and spoke in a hushed voice.

“I saw their Shibo earlier this morning when I was delivering hot water to the rooms. And you wouldn’t believe it, but it’s the Fallen Leaves Valley Lord himself! I wish I could just get a glimpse of what he looks like under the veil…”

“Oh?” said Xie Li.

“Heheh,” grinned Auntie Ma. “I’ve heard that he’s the most handsome man in the mountains right now… I wonder what he looks like.”

“You didn’t seem that excited when Uncle Niu was talking about him yesterday.”

“Aiyo, that Old Niu would just make fun of me if he knew,” said Auntie Ma. “Anyway, Auntie here is really excited to know what the Fallen Leaves Valley Lord looks like now. Especially if he’s as good-looking as all the rumours say…”

“I saw his face last night,” said Xie Li, carelessly.

“What?” yelled Auntie Ma, and then she quickly hushed her voice again. “Tell me, is it true he’s super handsome?”

“…’super handsome’?” blinked Xie Li, tapping a finger against his chin in thought. “Hmm. His facial features are all in the right place, so I suppose by most standards he is considered handsome…”

“But of course Ah-Li couldn’t tell if he’s good looking. You can hardly look people in the face even when they’re talking to you,” sighed Auntie Ma, patting Xie Li’s arm. “Having stayed at the Hermit Moon Peak in your youth has not only made your face stiff, but also affected your sense of aesthetics. It’s a good thing you left that place. Auntie Ma will teach you how to appreciate beauty.”

“Hm,” said Xie Li. “I think I appreciate good-looking things just fine.”

“Oh dear child,” chuckled Auntie Ma. “You like the strangest things…”

“By the way, they’ve ordered three breakfast sets,” said Xiao Li, steering her back to the work at hand.

“Oh, that means the Valley Lord Di will be joining them! I’ll bring the food to their table,” volunteered Auntie Ma.

She was in luck as Di Mie was at the table as she served them, but quickly came back to Xie Li looking disappointed.

“I couldn’t see the face behind his veil. Still, he has a really handsome figure,” admired Auntie Ma. “Just like our Ah-Li.* Except he’s taller. And his shoulders are broader and more dependable. And he’s so accomplished at his young age. He doesn’t look much older than you… Also, did I mention those nice, dependable looking shoulders of his? Those clothes can’t hide those shoulders, heheh…”

*Ah-Li = Xie Li

“You are amusing, Auntie Ma,” said Xie Li. He remembered he was at work and put on his practised smile as he felt murderous aura aimed at him from across the room.

“Waiter, please come here,” called the dark-dressed Di Mie, his voice low and even. Jianshi and Jianjin visibly stiffened at their Shibo’s using his extra-gentle voice. It meant he was probably ready to kill someone…

“Yes, coming over now,” said Xie Li, knowing Auntie Ma’s eyes were following him all the way to the table.

“Sit here,” said Di Mie, gesturing to the stool next to him at the table.

The two juniors stared at the waiter, then each other in confusion.

“I have to work,” said Xie Li.

“Please. Sit. Down.”

“As you wish,” said Xie Li, his tone so bland and casual that the two brothers started to fear for the waiter’s life.

The two juniors watched as this waiter took his time to sit, not the least unperturbed by their Shibo’s firm, unmoving posture. Xie Li smiled at the two disciples, which only served to make them feel more uneasy.

“You two, introduce yourselves,” ordered Di Mie.

Who would dare disobey their Shibo, who to them was more demonic than the demons he banished?

Trying his best not to care how ridiculous the situation looked, the older of the two quickly spoke up for them, holding his hands up in polite greeting.

“I’m Chen Jianshi. This is my younger brother, Chen Jianjin. We are both from Border Mountain Sect and are disciples of the Wild Tiger Peak.”

“And I’m Di Mie of the Fallen Leaves Valley,” said Di Mie. He looked at Xie Li. “Your turn.”

“Ah, me?” said Xie Li, smiling and pointing at himself, his motions a little slow. “I’m Xie Li. I work here for the Auntie Ma who owns this inn.”

“Xie Li, is it?” said Di Mie, his eyes narrowing at the name the waiter used.

“Mn?” said Xie Li.

“Have you heard anything about some townsfolk who went missing lately?” said Di Mie.

The juniors were suddenly relieved.

It seemed that their Shibo was just being friendly to the waiter to gather information, even if his initial approach seemed rather…eccentric. They had asked the innkeeper the other day but she didn’t know much. Perhaps this waiter, being a young man, knew more?

“Hmm. I haven’t,” said Xie Li.

The juniors blinked.

“Have you talked to the town guards?” he suggested.

“We’ve asked the ones at the gates, but there’s no new information,” said Jianshi.

“Hmm, maybe Uncle Niu might know something since he likes to keep up with the latest news,” said Xie Li.

“Where is this Uncle Niu?” asked Jianjin.

“He should be at the cosmetics shop down the street.”

“Hm,” said Di Mie. “Bring us there.”

“But I have work,” said Lingzhu.

“I’ll talk to the innkeeper,” said Di Mie, and he did.

Jianshi and Jianjin watched as their Shibo suddenly became an auntie-killer, his voice a charming baritone, teasing and playful even behind the veil.

They shuddered when they caught phrases like ‘You were that friendly older sister at the canteen? No wonder the food always tasted so good!’, ‘Oh, my veil is because I don’t want to scare people away with my silver hair…’ and Auntie Ma gushing over how he needn’t be so considerate.

A gust of wind even came in from nowhere to lift his veil from his face just-so for Auntie Ma to catch a glimpse of his lips and his very well-shaped chin.

Auntie Ma couldn’t help a squee that came from her lips from seeing that demonically well-shaped bit of chin.

Di Mie skillfully pretended not to hear her reaction and after warming her up with all that small talk, dove into the real request.

“So, we are hoping you could lend us your nephew here the rest of the day off to help us with our investigation since we could use a guide,” said Di Mie.

“Well, of course! Our Ah-Li would love to help,” exclaimed the innkeeper. Then, as if remembering to ask Xie Li for his opinion, quickly turned to said nephew. “Ah-Li, are you free to help Young Master Di out?”

“Wow, ‘young master’,” whispered Jianjin to Jianshi.

“Auntie Ma, you’re the boss of this inn,” smiled Xie Li. “If you say I’m free, then I am.”

“Ah, right!” giggled Auntie Ma. “Today’s not a busy day, so Xie Li should go ahead and have fun in town with these fine gentlemen!”

“I’ll make sure he’ll have a fun time,” said Di Mie, his voice dripping with potent charm.

The juniors felt their skin crawl.

“Please be mindful of Ah-Li,” said the innkeeper. “This nephew of mine is in poor health and gets tired easily.”

“Don’t worry, Auntie Ma. I’ll take good care of him,” said Di Mie, his voice extra sweet.

“Aiyo, you have such kind words,” giggled the innkeeper.

The juniors looked ready to turn into stone statues right then and there.


“I’ll clean him right up while you continue your meal,” said Auntie Ma to the table of cultivators, pulling Xie Li aside.

“Clean up?” asked Xie Li.

“You can’t go out looking like that, not with these handsome fellows!” scolded Auntie Ma. “You need to dress up a little. It’s just good manners to be presentable.”

“Auntie Ma, there’s really no need to,” said Xie Li.

“Heheh, I got a little carried away last night and sewed a sash to go with that blue robe I altered,” she said, her eyes sparkling in contrast to the eyebags below.

Xie Li sighed and obliged, letting her pull him into their room in the back to pile a fresh set of clothes into his arms.

“Change quickly! And wash your face too!” she added as she closed the door behind her and giggled in anticipation.

*

“Auntie Ma, where is Mister Xie Li?” asked Jianshi, the older of the two disciples. They were done with breakfast and Di Mie was waiting outside the inn for their guide.

“Coming, coming,” said the innkeeper, going into the backroom to fetch Xie Li.

“Wait,” said Xie Li, a blood-stained undertunic and some rags bundled in his arms. “Let me get these soaked first…”

She grabbed the dirtied clothes from him and tossed it aside. “Leave the dirty clothes for your Auntie Ma to handle. Don’t keep those broad shoulders, uh, those handsome young sirs waiting.”

“Wait, you can’t go out wearing a hat like this,” she said as she took off his working hat and neatened his bun. She pursed her lips and pondered, then undid his bun and styled it again, leaving some hair down. She grabbed a blue ribbon and tied it around the top bun. “Now you at least look like a handsome school teacher from some rural village.”

“You are very specific…”

“Maybe you need props, like a fan or a book, maybe even a flute…”

“You are enjoying this, aren’t you?” said Xie Li, turning one round for her to examine and appreciate.

“Quickly, quickly,” she pulled him out and set him in front of the Jingshan disciples who were waiting at the inn’s entrance.

“Mister…Xie Li?” said Jianshi, not anticipating the change of clothes at all.

Jianjin pushed them both out of the inn and whispered, “Hurry up, we can’t keep Shibo waiting.”

No one could see what kind of face Di Mie made because of his veil, but he was silent for a moment when he saw Xie Li step out of the inn, dressed in a neat, blue robe.

And then he spoke up.

“You look ridiculous,” said Di Mie.

“Are these clothes that strange?” said Xie Li, smiling.

“The most ridiculous thing you’re wearing is that smile.”

“Please lead the way to this Uncle Niu,” said Jianshi, trying to change the chilly atmosphere between his Shibo and this strange waiter.

The two boys could feel their Shibo glaring daggers the whole time at Xie Li’s back as they walked down the street. Xie Li seemed not to sense any of that at all, walking on straight until they were at a shop selling rouge and cosmetics.

A middle-aged man sat on a stool just outside the shop, reading the latest gossip leaflet.

“Good afternoon, Uncle Niu,” greeted Xie Li.

“Hey, Xie Li! Heard said you were sick again. Are you feeling better today?”

“Mm,” shrugged Xie Li.

“You look good in my old robe. Your Auntie Ma did a great job,” chuckled Old Niu. “So, have you come to borrow another issue?”

“I haven’t finished reading the ones you left behind,” said Xie Li.

“You have to tell this old man what you think of it when you finish reading them, haha!” said Old Niu. He looked at the men hanging behind Xie Li. “Hmm? Who are these young masters from the Border Mountain Sect with—oh my! Is this the Fallen Leaves Valley Lord himself?”

“I’m here to supervise our sect juniors. Please ignore my presence so they can learn well,” said Di Mie, sounding every bit a charming gentleman.

The juniors shuddered. It was always chilly when their Shibo was around.

“Certainly! Old Niu here will help the Border Mountain disciples in any way I can. I am a retired disciple myself after all!”

Jianjin chirped up, knowing it’s his time to step in.

“What a friendly uncle you are,” chirped Jianjin, buttering up the old man. “Have you heard anything of the people who went missing just outside of town?”

“Ah, that,” said the old man, scratching his sparse beard as he kept sneaking peaks at Di Mie’s veiled face. “I was talking about that with the gossip gang at the tea house just two days ago. A group of hunters went searching for some missing people but never returned. Seems like it happened along the footpaths.”

The more serious Jianshi took out some notes from his sleeve and flipped through them. “According to the town’s mayor, he sent the guards to search the vicinity but they found nothing. One of the guards even went missing too, just like the hunters.”

“Yes,” said Old Niu. “The guards themselves are too spooked to even talk about it, lest they get spirited away like their friend.”

“No wonder we can’t seem to get more out of the guards,” said Jianshi.

“What about Uncle Niu?” said Jianjin. “Are you also afraid to talk about it?”

“Ohh, you sneaky boy,” chuckled Old Niu. “The gossip gang is fearless. We have nothing to lose but our old bones.”

“Aww, Uncle Niu, you don’t look old at all,” buttered up Jianjin. “You’re what? Twenty?”

“Hahaha, what a flattering young man you are,” laughed Old Niu. “This uncle is in his forties and not losing to you young ones.”

“Still young and looking younger!” said Jianjin. “So, our friendly Uncle Niu, do you know any first hand witnesses who could tell us the location?”

“Hmm, the guards won’t talk to you, I’m sure,” said Old Niu, stroking his beard. “But the old woodcutter just might.”

“Please tell us where we can find the woodcutter,” said Jianshi.

“Mie—uh, young master Di,” said Xie Li, pointing to Jianjin as they left the street. “Did you teach him all that?”

“Of course not,” said Di Mie as he rolled his eyes under the veil. “He taught himself.”


The woodcutter stared at them glumly as he told them his account.

“It started last month, you know? I was with my friend walking down the footpath when he disappeared. Some hunters went to investigate soon after, but they also disappeared, so we reported it to the guards,” said the woodcutter.

So you didn’t see anything before your friend disappeared?” asked Jianshi.

“It was a straight path down, but I turned around, he was gone,” said the woodcutter. “I thought he might have fallen down somewhere, so I went looking for him, but he disappeared.
I thought I saw a bear, so I quickly went back to town to tell the guards about it.

The next day we all went searching again but there was nothing. Maybe a wild bear dragged him off…”

“Do wild bears appear around here?” asked Jianjin.

“Oh, from your colours, you two boys are from the Wild Tiger Peak, aren’t you?”

“You mean ‘Mad Tiger Peak’?” said Jianshi. “We’re disciples of that peak.”

“I thought the Peak only accepts female disciples,” said the woodcutter. “I suppose times have changed, huh…Anyway, it’s good that Wild Tiger Peak disciples are here. If it’s a bear, you boys should be specialists.”

“Mad Tiger, not Wild Tiger,” muttered Jianjin.

“We’ll find out what happened to your friend, uncle woodcutter,” assured Jianshi.

“May Lord Divine Retribution have mercy upon my old friend,” prayed the old woodcutter.

“Um, uncle woodcutter, what does Lord Divine Retribution have to do with this case?” asked Jianshi.

“It’s just in case,” said the woodcutter. “Better to add an extra prayer than not.”

“Oh my heavens, this old man’s sentences don’t link up,” Jianjin said in an aside to his brother. “Then again, the guards and townsfolk we questioned were like this too. Is everyone obsessed with Lord Divine Retribution?”

“We’ll investigate this thoroughly, uncle,” assured Jianshi. “Where did you last see your friend?”

“The footpath up to the abandoned temple was where my friend disappeared,” said the woodcutter.


As they headed to the direction the woodcutter had pointed them to, Jianshi and Jianjin led the way, as it was their case to investigate. They stayed on their toes, knowing their Shibo was evaluating their performance.

“So,” said Di Mie. “Lord Divine Retribution of the Hermit Moon Peak, huh. What a title this guy has.”

“Maybe Qing Lingfeng* came up with this because you are called Di Mie*,” said Xie Li. “It sounds pretty intimidating.”

*Qing Lingfeng = Spirit Emperor’s name
*A pun on ‘Earth’s Destruction’

“Maybe Suiyu came up with it,” sighed Di Mie.

The two juniors shuddered. Any mention of Di Shibo’s old master was taboo for them unless they wanted to be roasted. And probably sent to extra cleaning duty. On the dreaded Hermit Moon Mountain.

“Mister Xie Li, would you perhaps used to be a Sect disciple too?” asked Jianshi, deducing from the conversation he’s overheard so far.

“No,” said Xie Li. “But I lived there for some years.”

“Ah, so you worked there,” said Jianjin. Hopping onto the better topic of Xie Li’s past, he asked, curious. “The innkeeper, Auntie Ma, mentioned to us about how she used to work at the main canteen. Did you work there too?”

“No. I stayed at the Hermit Moon Peak.”

Another taboo! thought Jianshi and Jianjin. They froze and turned back slowly, watching their senior’s body language to see if they needed to make their escape.

Di Mie sighed and waved at them to go.

“Keep moving or the sun will set before we reach the temple, you two.”

“Wait,” said Xie Li.

“What is it?” asked Di Mie.

“I need to take a break.”



Translator’s Notes

Thank you for reading this translation of ‘My Hermit Master’!

The prologue might be a little tough to understand at first with all the names, please give the following chapters a chance…

This is a work that uses the Master + Disciple pairing trope, but instead of a dignified Shizun (master), he is a waiter at a tavern/inn…!

Below are the names in Chinese if you’re interested!

Xie Li = 谢离
Xie is a common surname, meaning ‘grateful’ or ‘wilting (flowers). Li means ‘to leave’. It probably means something like ‘Grateful Departure’. But it’s funnier to translate it as “Thanks Bye” 😀

‘Ah-’ is a prefix sometimes used as endearment for close friends or relatives, hence Auntie Ma calling him ‘Ah-Li’ and Jianshi calls his brother ‘Ah-Jin’.

Di Mie = 狄灭
Di is also a common surname. ‘Mie’ means ‘eliminate’. His name is a homonym of ‘地灭‘, meaning ‘earth destruction’.

Chen Jianshi (older brother) and Chen Jianjin (younger) = 陈捡石 and 陈捡金
‘Chen’ is a common surname, meaning ‘old/past’. Their names literally mean ‘pick up stone’ and ‘pick up gold’.

There’s a lot of puns in this series using homonyms and names stating the obvious. I’ve chosen to translate most of it into English instead of using the pinyin (pronunciation) for easier comprehension.

Calling unrelated elders ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie’ is common, and sometimes used as a casual name too. There’s a little joke as well on Old Niu and Auntie Ma’s names – their surnames mean Cow and Horse.

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