“I’ve already fed him my medicine, and now you’re telling me that he shoulders the lives of thousands on his back?”
Editor(s): Amelea, Elestrea, Juurensha
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After the time taken for one incense stick to burn:
A huge quarrel had already broken out in the governor’s manor regarding Chen Xing’s identity. Everyone expressed that this young man’s intentions were quite dubious and must be thoroughly investigated.
Zhu Xu said, “The official document issued by Xie An can’t be fake! What do you want me to do?”
A general said, “Just one document isn’t enough to justify taking a death row prisoner away!”
“He may be a spy sent into the city from the outside!” Another person said, “Death row inmates are capable of committing all kinds of atrocities. Even if the city falls, we definitely can’t let them live!”
In the guestroom above the manor:
Chen Xing placed the man on a bed and gasped for breath as he sat on the threshold. He wiped his face, went out to pour some water, opened up the medicine bag hanging by his waist, and took out a crimson pill. He pried the man’s mouth open, but the man’s teeth were clenched tightly shut and kept trembling, so he was unable to feed him the medication. Chen Xing pondered the problem for a long time and could only resort to chewing the pill, drinking some cold water to dissolve it, pinching his jaw, then forcibly feeding him through his mouth.
Is it him? Chen Xing frowned as he studied his face and recalled what he had seen in his dream. Snow swirled everywhere in Xiangyang city. The building at the heart of the city was the governor’s manor; there were no discrepancies there. The Heart Lamp had flashed three times just now -- the first time was to lead him to the dungeon, the second time was in front of the dungeon, and the third time was when he had stepped into the deepest part of the prison in the cell.
“What are your origins?” Chen Xing wiped his face and muttered, “Why are you the one chosen by the Heart Lamp?”
Someone outside was delivering a message: Zhu Xu wanted to see him. Chen Xing had not finished arranging things on his side, so he wanted to ask Zhu Xu to wait for a short while, but the messenger didn’t leave and waited stubbornly outside the door. Chen Xing had no choice but to follow the messenger out in a hurry.
The snow continued to fall. Zhu Xu stood on the third floor of the governor’s manor, overlooking the entire Xiangyang city.
Chen Xing came up behind Zhu Xu and faced the city that was filled with lights. In the distance, the faintly discernible music of a flute could be heard, as if the piper was currently weeping with sorrow.
“Explain it clearly to me.” Zhu Xu said, “Otherwise, I can’t let you take the prisoner away, regardless of whether you’re an ‘exorcist’ or not.”
Chen Xing studied Zhu Xu and suddenly asked, “Lord, do you believe that there are gods and monsters in this world? Do you believe that I have magical powers? My guess is that you actually don’t believe in it.”
Zhu Xu sighed and had to admit, “Today's actions were only for show, to stabilise the morale of the army. Just tell the truth, don’t lie anymore. Your real target is that prisoner - have I guessed correctly? Who asked you to take him away? It can’t be Xie An. Were you sent by the Hu people?”
As he spoke, Zhu Xu became stern again and enunciated each word clearly,
“Think carefully before you speak. Say one wrong word, and your head will roll. Even if this city falls tomorrow, I’m still the city master today, so I can behead you at any time.”
Chen Xing stared at the sword at Zhu Xu’s waist, then at his gaze. He knew that Zhu Xu had begun to sense that something was amiss —— in other people’s eyes, he was just a young man who was dressing up as a God to play the devil. Previously, he had worn a black cloth over his eyes in order to sense the Heart Lamp more acutely, not to intentionally deceive others. In fact, even Chen Xing himself never expected that the person he was looking for just had to be a prisoner on death row.
Chen Xing answered, “Okay, I’ll tell you everything. If you want to take your sword out, do it after I finish talking.”
Zhu Xu turned around and looked into Chen Xing’s eyes. He said coldly, “Speak. I’d like to see what kind of lie you’ll fabricate!”
“This story has to be told from the very beginning, and it seriously encapsulates the essence of how ‘life is too short, it’s a long story.’ Since the Lord Governor insists on listening to it, there’s no harm in telling you anyway. There was mana in the world -- 300 years ago.”
Zhu Xu frowned slightly. He didn’t expect Chen Xing to start mentioning the so-called “magic” again.
“300 years ago, there were monsters, magic, and powerful magicians in the world……” Chen Xing just pretended like he couldn’t see Zhu Xu’s expression. He walked to one side and began explaining slowly.
In that year, Emperor Zhangdi of the Han Dynasty was in power, and Ban Chao was sent to the Western Regions on a diplomatic mission to settle a hundred-year policy in the Western Regions. Everyone lived a prosperous and content life throughout the Divine Land; fangshi, warriors, and danshis were all flourishing professions. According to legend, the so-called “yao tribes” were banished by powerful exorcists to the mountainous region with 100,000 massive mountains in the southwest of Yizhou and Yelang country. They laid down layers upon layers of enchantments to trap them until they perished on their own, so they could no longer meddle with affairs in the Central Plains.
After the yao were exterminated, only one mission remained for humans —— to seek immortality.
The Fangshis believed that as long as one communicated with the heavens and earth, absorbed spiritual Qi, and cultivated their magic, they would be able to live forever. However one day, all of the “mana” in the world disappeared overnight.
It had completely disappeared without forewarning. All the magic weapons in the world turned into scrap iron within the blink of an eye, and all the sacred tools used to exorcise yaos turned into ordinary weapons. Chants and all magic lost their effectiveness -- ranging from strong magic that could move mountains and fill seas to small magic like “Five Ghosts Transporting Fortune”. No matter how you tried to activate them, they would no longer work.
“Gone.” Chen Xing made a meaningless gesture as he faced Zhu Xu, “Since then, there has been no mana in the Divine Land. This is what exorcists call ‘the silence of all magic’.”
“Oh?” Zhu Xu’s smile didn’t reach his eyes, “So, what now?”
Chen Xing said with regret, “Some people say that the “Xuan Gate” that releases the spiritual Qi of the heavens and earth had closed.”Laozi once said, “Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.” The people at that time thought that the spiritual Qi in the world was released from the invisible “Xuan Gate” in the void of the heavens. They thought that perhaps, the disappearance of mana meant that the Xuan Gate had closed. Thus, they offered sacrifices to heaven, worshipped the mountains and rivers, and exhausted every means possible. But nothing worked.”
Fortunately, the yao tribe didn’t incite any large-scale insurrections. After all, in the years when exorcists were active, the monsters had all been crippled. In order for new terrestrial and aerial beasts to cultivate into yaos, they had to absorb the spiritual Qi of the heavens and earth. Without spiritual Qi, they naturally had no way of inciting trouble. After all, only using up yao energy to do bad things without the parasitic consumption of others’ energy; expending energy without sustenance would be a very tiring affair.
There are both pros and cons for the silence of all magic. Without monsters, there would naturally be no need for exorcists in the human world.
However, the problem lay elsewhere—— yao could not be cultivated, but it was not necessarily the same for “demons“.
“Demons are the resentment of the world.” Chen Xing said, “Those who died under tragic circumstances in the world are resentful. All things are born in heaven and will return to earth, then enter the heaven’s reincarnation cycle -- but their resentment can’t be dispelled. To put it bluntly, the more people die during plagues, wars, and famines, the easier it is for resentment to gather.”
During Emperor Hui’s reign, the royal Sima family vied for the throne, and a total of 800,000 people died in the civil war. Throughout the years of serious drought in Guanzhong plains, famine frequently occurred, and more than 2 million people died of starvation and illness.
During the Yongjia period, Liu Yuan, one of the Xiongnu people, broke through Huguan County and captured Luoyang, while Liu Yao breached the defenses of Chang’an. In Guanzhong, Guanlong, and other places, 1.8 million people died. The Jin people fled to the South towards Jiankang, but were wiped out at the natural Yangtze moat.
Shi Le, one of the Jie people, subdued Jinyang County and its province, injuring and killing more than 2 million people.
The Murong clan of the Xianbei people and the Jin general, Heng Wen, were engaged in a huge battle, killing 400,000 people. Xianbei, Xiongnu, and the Jie tribes wantonly plundered the Central Plains. They never brought provisions along with them and called the Han people “two-legged sheep” that could substitute as military provisions along the way. The population of the Central Plains as measured by the Jin Dynasty 20 years ago was 20 million. By the time Ran Min killed Jie Zhao, the population was recalculated -- less than 4 million people were left.
However the good times didn’t last. Ran Min’s city fell, and he was killed by the Murong clan. Jishou county was lost, and the people were slaughtered and had their possessions looted once again.
“Finish the calculation and remove the remainder.” Chen Xing said to Zhu Xu, “Then Lord Governor, there will definitely be at least 20 million. More than 10 million in this calculation are Han people who had died under the Five Barbarians’ cavalry. Millions of Hu people murdered each other, which further exacerbated the birth of resentment.”
Even though he obviously knew that Chen Xing was lying, Zhu Xu still fell into a trance as he listened and answered, “The world is in turmoil, and a mortal life is as feeble as grass.”
Chen Xing said, “If we trace this back to an even earlier time, when the Wei, Shu, and Wu families divided the land under the heavens, endless wars surged during that hundred-year period, and the number of those who died because of those wars numbered in the tens of millions. Thus, in the past 300 years, more than 30 million people have died in the Divine Land. The resentment of these 30 million people wanders between heaven and earth, never leaving, and has already far exceeded the limit that the Divine Land can accommodate. If it goes on like this, “demons” will soon be bred in just a few years. As for the origin of “demons,” I’ve never seen it before; the historical records about it are scarce. Putting that aside for now, I’ll discuss the key points. Someone has to be prepared in advance and be on guard against the appearance of demons at all times.”
“My ancestors were from Jinyang, and my parents died early. After the war between Fu Jian and the Murong clan in Huguan County, I moved to Mt. Hua to live in seclusion.”
Chen Xing could still vividly recall the war nine years ago, even though he was only 7-years-old back then. His house had caught fire and was set ablaze, and his grandmother ordered a loyal servant to send him to an old friend and subordinate in the depths of Mt. Hua to study the deities and stars and cultivate the magic of exorcising demons. In this current era where magic had been silenced, ancient texts that had been passed down through generations were now all covered with dust, and were no longer of any use.
At the age of sixteen, Chen Xing had a dream —— he dreamed of a big city that he had never visited. After listening to this, his Shifu pondered for a long time and suspected that it was Xiangyang City, then told him that dreams were guidances from the Heart Lamp. His Protector Martial God awaited him in that city. He had to find his Protector first, since he would only be able to complete his mission with the help of his Protector.
“And thus, I came, to stand here before you.” Chen Xing said in the end.
“Finished talking?” Zhu Xu slowly pulled his sword out, “After waiting for so long, what I get is this absolutely ridiculous story you made up for me?”
Chen Xing did not retreat. He faced the pointed tip of Zhu Xu’s sword head on, placing his right hand on the left side of his chest above his heart. He then raised his hand, and a resplendent white light actually burst out from his palm, moving towards Zhu Xu!
Zhu Xu thought that the young man was still planning on bluffing his way out, but he didn’t expect the light to erupt out of nowhere and was instantly so dazzled he couldn’t open his eyes.
“What……what kind of trick is this?” Zhu Xu gripped his sword and couldn’t swing it down for a moment.
“This is the Heart Lamp.” Chen Xing answered.
Zhu Xu was stunned. “You are indeed……a mage, you can emit light? What’s the use of this light?”
Chen Xing answered honestly, “It has no use, all I can do is emit light occasionally.”
Zhu Xu, “……”
Zhu Xu became overly suspicious at once. Chen Xing shrugged helplessly as the light retreated, and he explained, “I read the historical records and learned that a great calamity will befall the world. At the time when the Divine Land perishes, the keeper of the Heart Lamp, accompanied by the Protector Martial God, will step out to exorcise demons. The sudden appearance of the Heart Lamp in this world means that the revival of the ‘demons’ is imminent. I must find the Martial God, awaken his strength, and help the world withstand the calamity of Mara’s descent into this world.”
“Disputes between the Hu and the Han people are trivial matters. Once Mara appears, the entire Divine Land will be completely overthrown, all living beings will be annihilated, and the earth will be cleansed and return to primordial times. Everything will reset from the beginning. No matter if you’re a Hu or a Han, no one will be able to escape.”
“You……you……” Zhu Xu was momentarily speechless.
Chen Xing said helplessly, “I don’t want this either, okay? Lord Governor, understand this a little, do you think I wanted to come to Xiangyang?”
“After my Shifu died, I quickly packed up my things, left Mt. Hua, hired a carriage, and rushed to Xiangyang. I somehow got onto a boat and entered the city without encountering any danger, came all the way to the city master’s manor, and thought that this was indeed the place. Of all people, I had to be the one to inherit the great undertaking of unification and restore the exorcist profession in the human world, and I accepted it. But as a result, for some reason, the readily available able-bodied men were all ignored, and I had to go to the dungeon to find some guy who suffers from tuberculosis, and I’m still trying to figure out how to get out of the city!”
At this moment, the registrar delivered the register. Zhu Xu sheathed his sword, accepted it, and perused it.
The registrar, “The directory of the prisoners’ identities has been found; his name is ‘Xiang Shu,’ he’s one of the Hu people.”
Zhu Xu frowned deeply. Because of the “emitted light,” he believed in Chen Xing for now.
Chen Xing pondered for a moment, then answered, “Whether he is a Hu or Han……isn’t really that important to me. Okay, I’m really not very fond of Hu people. Well this will be difficult to deal with, but he doesn’t seem like one ah……part of the Hu? Do Hu people have the surname Xiang? Which tribe?”
Zhu Xu flipped the register to its last page; it was a supplementary page of the detention directory brought by the escort officer half a year ago. The first row of words suddenly came into view -- “Yaoren, Xiang Shu”.
The registrar, “In the first year of the Taiyuan Dynasty, Jianwei Zhonglang had wanted to escort this man to Jiankang and behead him after interrogating him in detail. But no matter how severely tortured he was on the way, this man never uttered a word. The escort officer died from illness when he was passing through Xiangyang, so Xiang Shu was imprisoned in this city. Their initial intentions were to transfer him to Jiankang, but he was momentarily forgotten as there were too many prisoners on death row. He has since been imprisoned.”
“Half a year ago, innocent people were massacred in Guanzhong and were offered as blood sacrifices to heaven.” Zhu Xu said, “A total of 2,000 people were killed, including both Hu and Han people. Men, women, old and young, and even domestic chickens and dogs were not spared. It took a lot of effort for my Jin officers and soldiers to capture him while they were embroiled in a larger battle.”
Zhu Xu reluctantly believed in the matters regarding the Heart Lamp, but he had a new question, “Why would you choose this person?”
Chen Xing said in disbelief, “Why he was chosen? I don’t know either ah!”
When Chen Xing heard all that, he instantly felt worried. Don’t tell him that the light flashing before his eyes was a hallucination?
Chen Xing took the register and only saw a few lines on it: Xiang Shu, massacred 2,000 or more people, a Hu Man, fierce general, speculated to be a military official, the tribe he belongs to is unknown……there’s even such a thing?
“I’ve already fed him my medicine, and now you’re telling me that he shoulders the lives of thousands on his back?” Chen Xing said.
“Didn’t I tell you not to free him?” Zhu Xu said, “Change to another one ba.”
Chen Xing said, “Can this be changed? It can’t ba! Wait, I think I’ll still have to……give this matter further consideration. I’ll ask him in detail when he recovers, what if he was wronged?”
Chen Xing felt ill at ease and turned around to hastily leave. Zhu Xu frowned deeply. He turned around to look down. From the manor at the northern part of the city, he gazed into the distance beyond the city walls; a dense mass of troops from Qin country in the far north covered the entire expanse.
At the same time, in the guestroom of the governor manor, that man suddenly gasped heavily and returned to life.
Chen Xing returned to the room, closed the door, looked out of the door, then looked back at that man. He’s alive now. What do I do? Do I have to strangle him to death? But no matter what others say, he should at least be given a chance to defend himself ba? And he’s my Protector! Chen Xing had already treated this man named Xiang Shu as ‘my thing,’ so he can’t strangle him to death.
He made up his mind to ask him again when he was able to speak. So Chen Xing prepared a basin of hot water to help him wipe his body.
“Your name is Xiang Shu?” Chen Xing observed the man’s face and muttered, “A Hu man?”
The man had a high nose bridge, deep eyes, and distinct facial features. His features were sunken because of how thin he was. His beard hadn’t been shaved for a whole six months, and his hair was in a tangled mess. His whole body was riddled with scars -- they were all old injuries.
Chen Xing only simply wiped him down, the rest of the cleaning could be done by Xiang Shu himself after he recovers. When he was wiping his body, Chen Xing realised that this person had slender fingers, distinct knuckles, long limbs, huge feet, and his legs looked very sturdy and strong.
My family’s Protector looks like he’s very good at fighting, Chen Xing was very satisfied.
Chen Xing retrieved a silver needle from his medicine bag and inserted it into an acupoint at his waist. The man suddenly opened his eyes.
Chen Xing immediately retreated slightly and raised the needle up to his nose to sniff it.
“You’ve been poisoned.” Chen Xing said tentatively, “I fed you a revival pill. You won’t be able to move for the next 12 hours, nor will you be able to speak. At this time tomorrow night, your body will return to normal, and you’ll be able to gradually recover by eating something when the time comes.”
The man’s eyes remained open as he stared at Chen Xing. His eyes were very bright but possessed a dangerous gaze reminiscent of a beast. Chen Xing turned his head slightly sideways, frowned, and thought about the words of a Left Protector.
“You’re the one chosen by the Heart Lamp.” Chen Xing said, “From this moment on, you’re a Protector Martial God. I’m the Great Exorcist named Chen Xing, courtesy name Tian Chi. But I’ve heard that……you’ve killed a lot of people? Is that true?”
“No matter what you did before.” Chen Xing thought for a bit and said reluctantly, “If I hadn’t saved you, you would not have survived after this city falls in a few days. That’s something you should know ba? You can’t do anything to me.”
The man couldn’t speak. His gaze moved elsewhere. Chen Xing pulled the blanket over, covered him with it, and tucked him in slightly. He wondered if he should just truss this person up along with the blanket first, just in case this man is a homicidal maniac who would explode right after the medicine loses its effect; he wouldn’t be easy to control then. If that really did happen, then he would be the first exorcist ever to be killed by his own Protector. That would be too stupid.
But after repeatedly ruminating over it, he was this guy’s benefactor after all, and this guy doesn’t look like a rabid dog, so he ought not to personally hack at his benefactor……Chen Xing yawned. He was really too sleepy. He sat at the table and leaned on it, turning his head sideways to look at Xiang Shu.
After leaving Mt. Hua half a month ago, he traversed through land and water to get to Xiangyang, which was surrounded on all sides by the Qin army. He used a lot of energy just to get into the city, and after several days of anxiety and fear, he still had to think of a way to leave as soon as possible. Chen Xing was truly too tired; he couldn’t even summon the strength to find a rope to tie up this man named Xiang Shu. He had only wanted to take a short rest but somehow ended up falling asleep.
He didn’t know how long he had slept for when a loud blare startled Chen Xing awake in an instant.
“The Qin army is besieging the city——”
“The city has fallen——”
Chen Xing was still in a disorientated daze when he stood up. A loud noise rang out outside; crying, shouting, and the cries of those engaged in the battle all resounded simultaneously.
No way, how could it be this coincidental? Chen Xing immediately got up and went out. All he could hear were the shouts of people fighting and killing one another as they entered the courtyard. A fire canister whooshed as it sailed overhead and smashed into the roof of the governor’s manor, which then burst into flames. When he went further out, he suddenly caught a glimpse of burning men and women on the street who danced about wildly as they rushed out.
“The city has fallen!” A soldier rushed in and shouted, “Leave! The governor has rushed to the south side of the city! He’s confronting the enemies there! Go! Don’t tarry!”
Situated in the north, the governor’s manor was the first place to bear the brunt and suffered consecutive attacks by the enemy’s cavalry as soon as they broke through the city wall.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and opal.