"Please gather all of the city’s able-bodied men in one place, for my evaluation."
Chapter revised by Elestrea on 04/01/2021.
Editor(s): Amelea, Elestrea, juurensha
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Jin Dynasty. Fourth Year of Taiyuan Period, First Day of the Second Lunar Month, Xiangyang.
A sudden snowstorm swept through the thousand-year-old ancient city overnight. The cold wave froze all of the remaining few bright and warm lights in the city, and the only sounds that remained were the rustling of the falling snow and the crackling of the charcoal in the red mud stove.
Outside the city, 200,000 Qin troops were assembled in a watertight besiegement. They were on standby, waiting for the final battle with the Jin troops defending the city to finally erupt.
Chen Xing's vision went dark and he was quite anxious. He could've arrived earlier or later, so why did he choose to come right at this particular time? After exerting his utmost to somehow muddle his way into Xiangyang City, he now had to look for someone inside the city —— it was like finding a needle in a haystack. And even if he did find the one he was looking for, how was he supposed to leave the city tomorrow morning?
Xiangyang City had been surrounded for an entire year and had long since run out of ammunition and provisions. Its foot soldiers were too hungry to fight, and its people were too hungry to flee, yet all of them still had the energy to curse. Currently, people's emotions were volatile and many were causing disturbances.
After entering the city, it wasn't easy for Chen Xing to find Zhu Xu, the Governor of Liangzhou, and the one who was in charge of defending the city. He made his identity known to the other, but before he was able to explain his purpose for coming to the city, the governor had quickly summoned all the military counselors and generals under his command. In an instant, the hall was filled with people, some standing and some sitting as they waited for Chen Xing to speak.
"Repeat it once more, in front of everyone. What are you?" Zhu Xu asked.
Dressed in a black robe, Chen Xing sat upright before him. He answered earnestly, "E-x, ex, o-r, or, cist."
Zhu Xu said to the crowd, "He said he's a mage."
"Not a mage," Chen Xing explained patiently, "an exorcist, that's the third time I've said it."
The lights in the main hall of the governor's manor shone resplendently, illuminating his features. Chen Xing was dressed in black from head-to-toe, a stark contrast to his fair skin. He wore a brocade Han robe embossed with dark patterns and held a small, gold-plated hand warmer in his arms. A tiny medicine bag hung by his waist, and he wore a pair of cloud-wading boots.
His eyes were covered with a black cloth, while his pure, beautiful rosy lips and high nose bridge were left exposed —— he was a blind man.
"Let me introduce myself, my name is Chen Xing," the young man continued. "The 481st successor of the Divine Land's exorcists and the only Great Exorcist left in this world. I'm 16 years old this year, 7 chi 9 cun, 130 jin. I'm from Hanzhong, and also the inheritor of the exorcists' great undertaking in the human world. I came to Xiangyang for official business, and I hope to obtain Lord Zhu Xu's assistance. Nuo, please take a look, this is a document issued by the Great Jin's Minister of Appointments, Lord Xie —— Xie An."
The hall within the governor's manor was filled with people. All counselors whispered amongst themselves, and countless generals under Zhu Xu's command all regarded this uninvited guest with suspicious gazes.
"Xie-daren?" The handwritten order handed over by the young man was passed around the crowd. Zhu Xu hardly managed to catch his breath before asking, "Where are the reinforcements? I asked Xie An for reinforcements, and he sent me a mage? What's the meaning of this?"
Chen Xing sincerely said, "Well, I don't know about that. And I'd like to reiterate one more time —— I'm not a mage."
After the whispering died down, the governor, Zhu Xu's heart rate sped up as he asked the question that had constantly preoccupied him.
"Are you able to help push back the huge army outside the city?"
Chen Xing scratched his neck, thought about it, then answered, "It's hard to say, depends on the situation. But it's most likely impossible."
"Exorcist," One of the generals who had been observing for a while spoke, "can you scatter beans and turn them into an army?"
"No," Chen Xing answered straightforwardly.
"Have you ever divined through the stars?" Zhu Xu asked. "Can you command the wind and rain and help everyone in Xiangyang out of their dire predicament?"
Chen Xing: "???"
Chen Xing pointed at his blindfold as if saying, "You want me to divine through the stars? I can only do that if I can see in the first place, ba!"
"Kid! Do you know any magic, or can you perform some kind of magic trick?" another general added. "It'll be fine even if it's only just for show, as long as you do it in front of the people to give everyone the confidence to defend the city!"
Chen Xing's face had an innocent expression as he answered, "Scattering beans to create an army is just something written in books to deceive people. There's no such magic in the world. Well, at least not yet."
Zhu Xu and everyone in the hall became disheartened.
"Governor-daren," Chen Xing said, "the purpose of my trip here is to find someone."
The crowd in the hall started to disperse. Zhu Xu who thought he had caught ahold of his last straw, now answered insipidly, "Who is it?"
"A person who is destined for me," Chen Xing said seriously. "My Protector Martial God is in Xiangyang City. This person is extremely important to me, and to the whole world."
Zhu Xu looked at Chen Xing doubtfully.
Chen Xing explained, "This destined person has appeared three times in my dream, and each time was clearer than the last. From my latest dream, I'm very certain that this person is in Xiangyang City. As long as I can find him, I'll..."
Zhu Xu felt like he had just seen a glimmer of hope, and his heart flew to his throat.
"You can help me break through the Qin army?"
Chen Xing explained sincerely, "No... I'll leave without delay. Everyone's really busy, I dare not hold you up from fighting your war."
Zhu Xu: "......"
"Please gather all of the city's able-bodied men in one place," Chen Xing continued. "For my evaluation... for me to seek out this Protector Martial God. I assure you that this matter is of great concern to the millennial well-being of the Divine Land, you will not regret it."
Zhu Xu had wanted to say "what kind of joke are you making?" but this young man didn't seem to be lying. If he were really here to while his time away, he didn't have to enter the city at its most desperate time. Frankly speaking, Zhu Xu didn't even know how he got into the city. Perhaps it was because he would be on his last legs in a few more days, or it was because the phrase 'millenial well-being' had moved Zhu Xu, but in any case, hope was growing fainter by the day. At the very least, he had a document from the Ministry in his hands. Zhu Xu suddenly had an idea —— he wanted to see what kind of mysterious trick this kid was playing.
"All able-bodied men are in the army," Zhu Xu said coldly. "Look for him there, and we'll talk again after you find him."
Two hours later, all the remaining 12,200 officers and soldiers in the city were called over and assembled urgently on the field outside the governor's manor. Many were even yawning.
It was snowing lightly at dusk. A couch was placed in front of the entrance of the governor's manor. Chen Xing sat on that couch while looking down at the dense, dark mass of the crowd below engaged in spirited discussions; for the past several months, people had been in want of food from the beginning of winter. As soon as the army gathered, it was as if they had found an outlet to vent their frustration as they all started clamoring one after another.
"Silence! Silence!" the chief general immediately reprimanded in a loud voice.
Zhu Xu saw that the situation seemed to be getting uglier, and a riot could even break out if it went on like this, so he hurriedly said, "Begin quickly."
Chen Xing: "..."
Chen Xing raised his hand slightly, and it trembled a little before he finally put it back down. A military counselor from the governor's manor noticed this small detail and asked softly, "You seem to be a little nervous?"
"I'm not nervous at all," Chen Xing immediately refuted this allegation that harboured evil intentions.
Not among these people. Chen Xing waited for a long time, but the guidance he expected never appeared. He listened carefully —— within that endless darkness, only the rustling of the snow could be heard.
Heart Lamp, quick... quickly tell me where the Protector Martial God is. I'm running out of time!
The crowd was causing a loud commotion. Soldiers had gradually started to curse angrily; some even began demanding provisions. Suddenly, in the darkness brought to him by the blindfold, a light appeared in the distance.
Found him! Chen Xing immediately got up and walked quickly towards that light.
"Ai! Ai!" the generals who stood by Zhu Xu and the others swiftly said in succession. "Where are you going?!"
Chen Xing passed through the first row of officers and moved hastily towards the east side of the field. Zhu Xu could only walk down the stairs and follow him. Following that, the generals dismissed the soldiers and chased them away. When the crowd realized that it was yet another farce, they all sighed one after another and briefly cursed before returning to their respective homes.
After leaving the field, Chen Xing turned to the direction of the governor's manor. He looked in all directions before going to the west side of the manor.
"What is this place?"
Zhu Xu and a group of soldiers caught up with him. They lifted lit torches as they looked at Chen Xing.
"The dungeon," said Zhu Xu.
A white light suddenly lit up in front of him —— it was nearer now.
"Open the door," Chen Xing said seriously.
"You can't go in! Inside is..." a general wanted to stop him, but Zhu Xu motioned for someone to open the door.
Chen Xing, while still blindfolded, walked through the underground passage underneath the governor's manor. The dark passageway was lit by oil lamps. Chen Xing turned and headed directly into the deepest part of the dungeon. The light in front of him pulsed occasionally, just like a person's heartbeat. The entire room would shine brilliantly sometimes while becoming deathly still and dark at another. It flickered constantly in the deepest part of the prison.
In the depths of the dungeon, eerie, white bones and the mournful wails of prisoners filled the prison cells on either side. From an iron cell at the end of the passageway, a low moan resembling that of a dying, trapped beast, could be heard.
Chen Xing stopped right outside the last prison cell. He stood quietly across the iron grille partition.
The prisoner was a man bound by iron chains. He was curled up on the ground and only wore a pair of tattered shorts. A moldy wooden basin was placed in front of him, and one could easily see the bottom of the trough; evidently, he had not eaten or drunk anything for several days. Now that the city was under besiegement by an army, it was extremely difficult even for the good people in the city to survive, so it was even less likely that someone would care for the food and water of a prisoner.
The man had unkempt, disheveled hair that was let down, and his body was so skinny that even his ribs protruded outward. Whip marks could be seen all over his body, legs, and back. In the deepest part of this moldy and damp prison cell, he was already so sick that he could only exhale and not inhale. Although he could be considered a half-dead man by now, one could still tell that he had a tall stature even when he lay curled up. But his face was so grimy that his facial features could not be discerned.
"May I trouble you to please open the door?" Chen Xing said.
"No!" the registrar objected. "Kid! You don't know this person's origins! He can't be let out!"
Chen Xing said earnestly, "The Heart Lamp chose him."
"That's just fucking bullshit!" a general finally couldn't restrain himself any longer and started cursing. "Liar! Governor-daren, that man is a liar!"
But Zhu Xu wordlessly motioned for someone to open the prison door.
Chen Xing walked into the cell and knelt down in front of the man. The man was extremely quiet and motionless. Then, Chen Xing took off the blindfold that covered his eyes; a pair of clear eyes could be seen observing the man.
Chen Xing said to the man, "Are you still alive?"
The man's eyes were tightly shut. His forehead was boiling hot, but he was so cold that he constantly trembled and his lips had turned purple. The smell of rust permeated the cell, the telltale lingering stench after diarrhea. Since he had not eaten for many days, his whole body had collapsed, and he was already on his deathbed. With one poke from Chen Xing, he instantly started gasping for breath like he had gone mad.
Chen Xing immediately knelt down on one knee and pressed against his forehead with one hand. Soon afterward, that man opened his eyes, his lips trembling slightly. In the end, his eyes closed, and he fainted.
Chen Xing immediately motioned to his left and right, releasing the chains. He carried the man and soon realized that although this man was both hungry and sick, his body emaciated to the point of no longer resembling a human's, his body was still extremely heavy. He was nearly 9 chi tall. Chen Xing couldn't carry him in bridal style, so he had to resort to piggybacking and half-dragging him away...
"Help me out ah!" Chen Xing frowned.
Zhu Xu and the rest looked at Chen Xing with a puzzled expression.
"He's pretending to be blind!" the registrar said. "He was pretending! He really is a liar!"
Zryuu: Hi guys~ I’m almost done with the translations for SD, so I’m now jumping into my next feitian pit haha. This is his most recent novel! And translating this novel is reaaaaaaally out of my comfort zone bc ancient + wuxia and I just UGHHDASJFNLSKDJF, so if there are any ancient/wuxia terms that seem off somehow, feel free to let me know~
My synopsis of Dinghai in a nutshell as of now: a freaking comedic Shounen BL.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and Elestrea.