Editor(s): Amelea, juurensha, Zryuu
As the sun set and a cold gust of wind blew by, Chen Xing stood in the village with a blank expression and looked around him.
What do I do now? Chen Xing was utterly dumbstruck. His stomach growled again with another “gu——”.
I’m so hungry……Xiang Shu left some food behind, why don’t I just eat first? Chen Xing was starving by now, so he wanted to hurry up and eat before thinking about anything else. I don’t even know where that bastard ran off to, how on earth did I ever provoke him?! As Chen Xing thought about it, he almost flipped the whole pot of porridge over.
Night fell, and the temperature abruptly dropped in the land of Jingzhou. Chen Xing hid in the abandoned house and rummaged around to search for some clothes to wear, but a dog came out of nowhere and started barking at him incessantly. Chen Xing comforted it patiently and fed it after finding some food. After the dog had some sustenance, it seemed to gradually accept the reality of being abandoned by its master and spent this cold night together with Chen Xing.
Chen Xing was wrapped in whatever he could cover himself with in this abandoned house, and he hugged the dog as well. He shivered as he said, “It’s so cold, how could this happen? The Protector chosen by the Heart Lamp is actually a bastard?”
Chen Xing lamented in his heart. In this long and cold night, he couldn’t help but recall the expectations that reality had completely shattered for him. On the day he left the mountain, he never imagined that things would eventually turn out like this.
This was mainly because without exception, every exorcist in history has always had a “Protector” with them. Their purpose was to protect exorcists during their exorcisms and ensure that they wouldn’t be disturbed. The Protector by the side of the Great Exorcist who commanded Headquarters also had a resounding title -- “Martial God.”
Today, Chen Xing is the only remaining exorcist in the world, so naturally he was that “Great Exorcist.” As for the Martial God, the Heart Lamp had appointed Xiang Shu as his Protector.
Chen Xing had read many ancient texts and found a silk calligraphy remnant -- it was half a piece of the sacrificial ritual written by the Protector, Wen Che, for the exorcist, Xin Yuanping. Xin Yuanping died while fighting the demonic dragon in Sishui, and Wen Che killed the demonic dragon. After avenging Xin Yuanping, Wen Che drowned himself by jumping into Si River and was forgotten.
In the Han Dynasty, Xie Yiwu, the Great Exorcist who became the governor of Xingzhou, never married or had children. He was accompanied by General Hu Bi, whose reputation shook the world, as well as the number one swordsman of Jianghu at that time, Wang Yue, and became the legend of his generation.
In even later times, Zhang Liang, the Marquis Liu, became a disciple of Huang Shigong, and was proficient in various arts. As for his Protector, the predominant opinions about him were various and conflicting. Some said his Protector was Xiao He, while others said it was Han Xin. But when Zhang Liang fled under the pretense of death several years after, Han Xin was trapped and killed by Xiao He and Lu Hou. Historians criticisms regarding Xiao He were abundant, so most speculated that it was Han Xin. There were also tales that Left and Right Protector Martial Gods were established respectively in front of the pedestal of the Great Exorcist in the Han Dynasty.
While he was half asleep, Chen Xing became immersed in the memory of when his Shifu was on his deathbed.
“Iuppiter is part of your fate; it is everything you’ll rely on in your life, and it is the barrier that you’ll eventually have to overcome. Iuppiter has a hundred-year cycle and only stays in the human world for twenty years. Once twenty years passes, it’ll return to the heavens.”
Chen Xing followed behind his Shifu, “So my good luck will only last until I'm twenty.”
“No, far from it. When the time comes, Iuppiter will be released from your natal chart.” Shifu came to a stop and looked back from within the maple forest. He explained to Chen Xing, “Under what circumstances will someone lose the ruling star of their life? You should have known the answer to that question long ago, so I won’t need to explain further.”
Chen Xing felt as if he heard the resounding clap of thunder in an instant.
“I……I can’t live beyond twenty.”
Shifu answered calmly, “Fate is predetermined by heaven. Everything in this world has its own way of growth and propagation, and everything in this world also has a place they must go to in the end. Heaven has given you this destiny. Why not do something for the Divine Land within the limited lifespan you have left?”
“Since you had that dream, make a trip down to Xiangyang. You’re the Great Exorcist.” Shifu’s voice was still echoing in his ears, “Within your body is the only magical Heart Lamp that still functions in this world. In this desolate world, within the dark nights where all the stars are hidden, you’re the seed of light in the human world. In the next four years, you’ll have to do everything you can to reclaim the magic in the human world that was lost. Find out why the spiritual Qi of heaven and earth dried up. Use your Heart Lamp to illuminate the vast expanse around you.”
“Of course, if you want to idle away the rest of your time before your twentieth birthday, then go find what your ‘Dao’ is in your short life of twenty years ba. Go search for it.”
The next day, Chen Xing plundered the houses nearby and secured some rations. He fed the dog until it was full, then put on a large, floral-patterned jacket meant for the mistress of the house, as well as a pair of men’s cotton trousers that he had carelessly tossed on -- they could at least help him fight off the cold. Then he left the village and set out—— horse, silver, and his medicine bag had all been snatched by Xiang Shu, so he could only travel by foot. He had to go to Mai City first and think of a way to get some travel expenses to get to Chang’an before considering anything else.
When the dog saw that Chen Xing was leaving, it followed along, wagging its tail as it chased after him.
When he thought of Xiang Shu, Chen Xing just……he took a deep breath, Xiang Shu wasn’t even on par with a dog! After receiving just one meal, even the dog would follow him! Forget it. Shifu once said that one shouldn’t take too many things to heart. There were many days to come, if they were really destined to be, then that guy probably wouldn’t be able to run away. But what if he isn’t? Then what’s there to be angry about?
Nevertheless, less than half a month after leaving the mountain, suffering such great setbacks still made Chen Xing extremely dispirited and downcast. He really couldn't understand where he had gone wrong.
While his imagination was running wild, a horse-drawn carriage that was currently being used for fleeing suddenly stopped at the roadside.
“Ai! Get on ba!” Someone shouted at him, “Where are you from? Madam said to let you on!”
Chen Xing, “?”
Early in the morning, there were many people who brought their families along as they travelled toward Mai City in the south. Amongst them, there was no lack of well-to-do families that had escaped from the north. Chen Xing wore a thick flower-patterned jacket and even had a dog following behind him, so he really looked like a stupid son from a landlord’s family. Furthermore, he was born good-looking, so people more or less couldn’t bear to see him suffer, which was why a convoy slowed down and picked him up along with his dog on the way.
This was a family of scholars who escaped from Fan City. The master was in his fifties and had brought his wife and ten-year-old daughter with him. When an old lady in the family, along with her errand servant girls, became aware of the fall of Xiangyang City, she quickly fled southward, preparing to cross Mai City before going to Changsha County to seek shelter with her relatives. The master was rather old now; he fled in a panic late at night with his family and after he learned of the suffering of the Han people from wanton massacre, he felt unparalleled sorrow and could barely breathe. He lay on the carriage, unable to move; both his eyes were shut tight and he was on the verge of dying.
“What happened?” Chen Xing thanked the old lady for her help first, then simply explained his origins by saying that he was a scholar from the south. He looked at the master who was half-dead and palpated his pulse. After learning about his illness, Chen Xing asked, “Is he sick? Do you have any needles? Lend me one, he’ll be fine after a session of moxibustion.”
The old lady quickly ordered someone to retrieve an embroidery needle. Chen Xing burned it, then applied it to the old man, and sure enough, after seven needles, the middle-aged man spat out a mouthful of congested blood. He slowly woke up, then cried loudly.
“A miracle doctor!”
Everyone was in a flurry in their haste to thank Chen Xing for saving their master’s life. Chen Xing quickly waved his hand with much modesty and was taken to Mai City like that. Along the way, Chen Xing gave a general overview of his experience of getting robbed by Xiang Shu, and everyone sighed in lament.
“You didn’t find a bodyguard.” The madam said, “You found an ancestor.”
“Public morals degenerate with each passing day, people of today are all degenerate scums na.” The old lady continued.
“Isn’t that right?” Chen Xing felt a bit better after he poured his heart out. These strangers had come together by chance and parted ways in Mai City. The family put together forty-two silvers as a thank-you gift, and had given him an extra roast chicken as well.
Chen Xing held the heavy silver ingots that weighed about three jin and said his farewells to them. He has money again. Change into another set of clothes first, then change the silver into gold. Otherwise, it would be very uncomfortable for the silver to weigh down heavily in his trousers. Inconvenience was one thing, but carrying such heavy silver around would also make him an easy target to rob.
“On the day my mother gave birth to me,” Chen Xing said to his dog, “Legend has it that Iuppiter descended to earth. My luck has been incredibly good ever since I was born. Look, now we have roast chicken to eat ba?”
Chen Xing divided the roast chicken into half and gave half of it to the dog. He went to look for a public bath first and took a relaxing bath, then went to the garment shop. He was very particular when making a selection and bought a set of new clothes. He suddenly regained his noble gentleman appearance from the makeover. He even bought a small mink jacket for the dog to wear before strutting to the bank.
Although Mai City was quite small at that time, it had all the necessities. As the largest distribution centre for the exchange of goods, after Xiangyang was besieged a year ago, businessmen who passed by did business here instead. The Jin army was unable to save Xiangyang, but would be able to retain some self-sufficiency if it held onto Mai City. News of Xiangyang City’s fall was brought to this place by the people who fled south, and all the streets were bustling with refugees and people overnight.
The inns, tea houses, and restaurants in the city were all crowded with wealthy people heading south. There was a hubbub of heated discussion; some were willing to donate money and offered themselves as physical labourers so that the army could fight back, while some felt like this place was ultimately still unsafe, and that it would be better to head south as soon as possible. Everyone was constantly on edge.
Go to the bank first to exchange money, then go to the government to sign a customs clearance document; only then would one be able to smoothly go north to Chang’an. The Qin and Jin countries were engaged in war, so customs clearance must be performed with due prudence.
Chen Xing, carrying a bundle of silver that weighed three jin, entered the bank. The bank was already tidied up and ready to flee. He had just entered the main hall when he suddenly realised that it was absolutely silent inside, and the atmosphere had an inexplicable strangeness to it.
“Shopkeeper, I want to change……” Chen Xing abruptly stopped speaking.
The mouths of all the shop assistants, shopkeeper, and hired thugs of the bank gaped open; their wrists and ankles were bound by iron rods torn off the bank’s windows. As soon as they heard Chen Xing enter, all of them turned and looked at him with their mouths open—— their chins had all been dislocated, and they had an uncanny resemblance to glowering geese.
A man leaned calmly against the cashier’s window. With his body turned to the side, his left hand rested on the counter and he wore a set of hunter clothes -- it was Xiang Shu!
Xiang Shu knocked on the counter with his finger to prompt the shopkeeper to hurry and take the money out. The shopkeeper trembled, and with his mouth open because of his dislocated jaw, used a slide rule to arrange a row of gold ingots for Xiang Shu. He wrapped them up in a small bundle and signalled to Chen Xing to run with a panicked gaze.
Xiang Shu turned his head slightly to the side when he heard the noise, and the two of them looked at each other.
A group of Jin soldiers passed by outside the door. Chen Xing decisively roared,
“HELP! SOMEONE’S ROBBING THE BANK——!”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.